Friday, June 29, 2018

13 Exciting July Middle Grade Summer Reads

I had some requests after my fantasy summer reading list to do another list including more genres. So here are some other titles to help you get your kids reading this summer. Check out all the fantastic authors below, these are in no particular order.

  Middle School Horror Club / Tales from the Middle School Horror Club
           Candy Darque, Eighth-Grade Vampire

Meet Candy Darque, a typical eighth-grader who just happens to be a vampire. All Candy wants is to have her proposed Horror Club accepted as an official school organization. But how can she concentrate on her campaign when her fangs pop out in the cafeteria? Or when she accidentally hypnotizes her entire class? Or when one of her best friends starts sabotaging her work? It's enough to make a girl want to bite someone!

A free preview of this book (first two chapters) is available on Bookfunnel. It is called  "Candy Darque, Middle-School Vampire: The First Day"  and tells about the day Candy first got her fangs.


  The Dragon Keeper Chonicles Book 1 CRIMSON 

Norterridane, a canine race of Genorrdia, have protected dragons for generations. But the dragon young are in danger. The Schorl serpents have found Genorrdia and threaten the lives of the dragons and their keepers. 

Crimson wants nothing more than to be a dragon keeper and follow in her father’s footsteps. When she stumbles upon two rare Obsidian dragon eggs and claims them as her own, she is thrown into a life she is not ready for. With little knowledge or experience about dragon keeping, Crimson sets off on a journey to protect the hatchlings. 

Crimson must learn to harness the powers of her dragons or lose everyone she loves.  

Elephants Never Forgotten

A hundred years in the future, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at a loss on how to care for them. Why are her micro-pets so different from everyone else's? What was her grandfather up to? With the help of her best friend, Kepler, the girls set off on an adventure to discover the truth.


The King's Ransom Book One

In Medieval Wales, three young friends are stunned when their mentor The Wild Man is accused of murder and theft. Determined to prove his innocence, they swear a Knight's Vow to succeed in freeing him or die trying.

Bound by loyalty and friendship, the three face danger and death as they embark on their Knight's Quest. In confronting their fears, hidden secrets are revealed, and lives are changed forever.

The Night I became a HERO {StoryKeeping Series 1 of 2}

This summer, story time with grandpa will change everything. 

Inside a glowing book, Space Spy Drift Elwick must defeat intergalactic pirates and save earth. But is it just a book? Riles, Sissie, and Finn want to help, but how? 

Will they find a way before it’s too late?

Find out in this action-packed, humorous, adventure chapter book receiving high praise:

“The best book for kids I've ever read. An immersive adventure that gave my daughter and I a magical experience.”

"Somewhere between The Boxcar Children and Harry Potter, this series follows a sibling set in and out of books, saving happy endings. A delightful read for middle grade boys and girls."

“A wonderful read filled with adventure, suspense, courage, and bravery!”

“The Story Keeping Series is Magic Treehouse meets The Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja.”

                                    Tunnel of Time

Do you think it's possible to be one place one minute, and then a completely different place the next? I'm talking a REALLY different place. My name is Gracie Hitt, and I did just that along with my sisters, Lizzie and Reba Dee. A normal Saturday at the County Fair turned out to be the most extraordinary time of our lives.

                                       Ruby Lane

Ruby is overexcited again, and her brain is spinning creative ideas so fast it feels like her head could explode!
Luckily, it's school holidays, so she's allowed to stay up late, reading adventure stories and playing dress-ups with her cat.
But when things get out of control, Ruby decides that helping a crazy pirate cat return a malfunctioning book to its rightful owner is the only logical solution...

                                  Autumn Eternal

Of all the places to grow up, Kip Carringer spent his youth in the secluded little town of Arno. Strange things were common there but no one seemed to notice, except for Kip that is. There was a witch living in the woods and all year long it was Autumn. And as if that's not strange enough, all the birds around the town and through the woods mooed like cows, instead of chirping or squawking like birds are supposed to do.
Kip was determined to uncover the secrets of the town, all while trying to convince his best friend Marleigh that he wasn't crazy. However, unknown to Kip, adventure was waiting for him just around the corner. Adventure that would be filled with pie stealing creatures and a dark, dark looming shadow. 

                       The Cowboy and the Unicorn

Siblings Micah and Sarah visit their grandmother’s lake house every summer, but they never imagined that a seemingly ordinary jaunt to the beach would lead them to an adventure of a lifetime.

A remarkable find holds the key to a magical world known as Hogar Haven, a strange world where goblins rule and visitors are forced to fight for their freedom. When they befriend a cowboy in the magical land, they soon discover just how difficult life is for those trapped in Hogar Haven. 

Soon, they find themselves working with the cowboy to help him save his horse, but they don’t have much time. If they don’t hurry, they just may find themselves trapped in the mystical world.

Can they find a way out before it’s too late?


                     The Rabbit Ate My Homework

Eleven year-old Drew Montgomery has not, does not, and will not ever want a stupid old rabbit. All they do is sit in their cages, eat carrots, and poop. Then his annoying little sister blackmails him into hiding a bunny in his closet. She knows what really happened to his "stolen" bike and she's threatening to tell. Now Drew’s in a real jam. If his "No pets!" parents find the rabbit or, worse, his sister blabs the truth, he'll be grounded till grade seven for sure.

And if that’s not enough trouble, two girls at school drag him into a prank war that goes from bad to worse--and it's all the rabbit’s fault. Plus, the weirdest girl in his class wants to be his science partner. If she tells him she wants to be his girlfriend, he just knows he’s gonna die.

Drew must find a way to outwit the mean girls, wiggle out of the blackmail deal, and get rid of the rabbit before it destroys his bedroom and his life.

Currently it is free at most retailers.


Daniel Green is a typical ten-year-old boy with just one difference – when he goes to sleep at night, he travels to Dreamland, a magical place where he can create amazing adventures using only his imagination.
But he is not alone. An evil being follows him into his enchanted world and joins forces with Stregona, the powerful witch who reigns over the Dark Forest. Together they are determined to destroy Dreamland.
Who is this dark entity, and what does he want with Danny?

A magical story for children age 9-12.

All Other Retailers

Confessions of A Nerdy Girl

First zit … first bra … first kiss …

A self-professed nerdy girl shares her deepest secrets and fears in a diary dedicated to her birth mother.



The Order of the White Boar

How well do you know the story of King Richard III? Not as well as Matthew Wansford.

Matthew, a 12-year-old merchant’s son, has always longed to be a knight. And his chance comes in the golden summer of 1482 when he arrives at Middleham Castle, home of King Edward IV’s brother, Richard, then Duke of Gloucester – valiant warrior at the age of 18, loyal brother, loving father, good master.

Soon Matt encounters a dangerous enemy. Hugh, a fellow page, is a better swordsman, horseman, more skilled in all the knightly arts – and the son of an executed traitor. A vicious bully, he aims to make Matt's life hell.

Yet Matt also finds the most steadfast of friends – Alys, Roger and Edward, the Duke’s only son. Together they forge a secret knightly fellowship, the Order of the White Boar, and swear an oath of lifelong loyalty – to each other and to their good lord, Duke Richard.

But these are not times to play at war. Soon Matt and his friends will be plunged into the deadly games of the Wars of the Roses. Will their loyalty be tested as the storm looms on the horizon?


 Happy Reading!!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Painting of Sorrow

Painting of Sorrow by Virginia Winters

I began Painting of Sorrow because I was interested in lost and destroyed paintings of WWII. Searching for paintings that could have been saved but were said not to be, brought me to the Flakturm Friedrichshain in Berlin, an anti-aircraft tower used to house a bomb shelter and a hospital as well as the paintings of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum. More than four hundred paintings and three hundred sculptures were burned, stolen, or destroyed by bombs in the waning days of WWII. Did the Soviets loot the building before it burned? Or were some of the paintings stolen when the Soviet guards were inexplicably removed?

One such painting was called variously Portrait of Fillide or Portrait of a Courtesan, a work by Caravaggio. Client Simon Wolf brings a copy of the painting to be conserved by the firm where Sarah Downing works.

Is it a copy or an original? It's Sarah job to conserve it but she wants to know the truth about the painting.

Sarah is a painter as well as an art conservator. Her mind reacts to situations, landscapes, and people by seeing paintings in her memory that describe them. Throughout the book, images of paintings also reflect her emotional state and her fears.

Early in the book, the director of the Art Gallery that is housed in the building where she works, frightens Sarah. Her mind brings up a picture of St. Jerome, an almost cadaveric man pictured in a desert, by Da Vinci. The taut skin of his face reveals the skull beneath.

Sarah escapes a killer with her friend Peg. On the way, they stop at a lookout over Mazinaw Lake. Casson painted the iconic Bon Echo Rock there.

Later, approaching the security of a remote cabin in rural Ontario, she sees the building as a painting by A. Y. Jackson, Settler's Home and somehow felt safer, for the moment.

Her visions become darker and when she finds her new love Simon, beaten by her ex-husband, The Death of Marat by David, a nightmare of a painting intrudes on her thoughts. At the hospital, the controlled chaos of Emergency Room, by Fiona Rae reflects the roiling state of her emotions.

Much later, arriving to Simon's home, afraid that all chance of a relationship with him has gone, she sees not his house, but Carl Schaefer's Ontario Farmhouse, dark clouds looming over it, perhaps an omen for her future

I hope interested readers will search out the paintings mentioned in the book to gain a fuller understanding of Sarah and the events that changed her life.

You can find out more about Virginia here:

Find the Painting of Sorrow here:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Interview with Joshua Dyer author of Padded

Today I'd like to welcome author Joshua Dyer. Tell us a little about yourself.  

I am the author of several works in various genres. I’ve had previous award-winning works published in the Los Angeles Times. Apart from writing, I love reading, languages, sketching, cooking, and spending time with my family in the mountains of West Virginia.

Share a short excerpt from your novel

A pale crescent moon sat nestled high above the asylum among drifting tufts of silver cloud. Herb shut his car door and stamped out a spent Chesterfield onto the concrete. One of the hospital’s security guards saw Herb approaching and popped one of the main door’s open.

The guard tipped his brim. “Evenin’, detective.”

Halbert slid past him. “How are things?”

The guard spun the deadbolt lock on the door. “Oh, ya know. Quiet relative to the night before.”

Herb shuffled behind him down the polished tile. “That’s what I heard.” He eyed the guy’s black tag: Milson.

“This way,” Milson said, opening the door to the basement. “I’ll take ya down to her.”

Herb chuckled. “Doc tell ya to expect me?”

Milson clopped down the steps. “Yeah. Said you might be back tonight to talk to Gale some more.” He rounded the bottom stair and headed along the sloped floor. “How’s that goin’ for ya?”

Herb tucked his fedora under his left arm. “It’s an unusual case, for sure.”

“You said it, bub.” Milson aimed his nightstick toward the dead end. “You know the rest of the way in, I take it.”

Halbert nodded. “I’ve got it from here, thanks.”

“Good night.” Milson waddled back to the stairs.

“You, too.” Herb strode up to the door to The Cloud.

He placed his briefcase on the cold floor, and fetched his notes. On the other side of the thick door, she hummed and, from the sounds of it, spun in slow circles.

Halbert slid the wooden shield aside. “Hello? Ms. Gale?”

She hummed an upbeat tune about going to see the Wizard.

“Mr. Gale? Dorothy?” He heard the song. She was in there.

“Boo!” Her hideous mask consumed the window.

A massive pulsing knot formed in Herb’s throat. “Jesus, kid!”

Dorothy’s laughter trailed off as she skipped to her bed. “So uptight.”

He bent over and took some breaths. Stars and yellow explosions closed in on him. “Yeah. Too funny.” Herb snagged his file and notes while he was down there. “Before, you had mentioned that the Wizard sent you on a mission to kill the,” his eyes snuck a peek at his notes, “Wicked Witch of the West. Can you tell me about that?”

She shook her bouncy brown curls.

“And, why not?”

Dorothy plopped on her bed and clenched its edge in both hands until her knuckles ran white.

“Ms. Gale? Why can’t you tell me?”

She yanked up handfuls of her white bedsheet. Something sinister boiled just beneath that mask. “You didn’t say, please.”

“Please, Dorothy.” He didn’t blink. “Can you describe your trip to kill the witch?”

Her chokehold relaxed. “You’ll just tell me it didn’t happen again, detective.” She swung her feet. “Try and convince me that I’m crazy.”

Herb lowered his eyes. “It’s my job to show you the facts as they occurred, Dorothy.” A groan. He hated this side of the work. “I know that sometimes it’s not what you wanna hear, sweetheart --” He lifted his gaze to find her standing less than a foot from his window.

The brown glare behind her mask closed the gap between them. She whispered through her wire, faint and ethereal. “Fine. I’ll tell you.” Gale checked to make sure no one else was eavesdropping and continued. “We snuck into the Haunted Woods that protected her castle.”

Halbert maneuvered through his report to the appropriate section.

“About the time we were ready to climb the rock face, her monkeys swooped in and kidnapped poor Toto and me.”

Herb cleared the phlegm. “The monkeys flew?”

“Uh huh.” Her hand arched toward the ceiling. “Whoosh!”

His pen raced over the page. “Okay. So, you got kidnapped?”

Dorothy spun on a heel and marched off with her hands clasped behind her. “That old hag tried to take my ruby slippers.”

“What would the witch want with your shoes?”

She spun and marched back. “They hold a deep and powerful magic, Mr. Halbert.”

“Such as?”

Dorothy laughed. “We’re getting to that.” The girl’s sideways stare chastised his mortal soul. “The witch tried to touch my slippers, but got shocked instead.” Another odd giggle. “Seems I have to be dead for her to be able to take them from me.” She doubled over. “Isn’t that a HOOT?”

“A real barn burner.” Herb scratched a thought down: what’s with the red slippers? Where did she get them? “Then, what?”

She flipped an imaginary object. “Time started ticking on me.”

“In what way?” He wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“Once it ran out, she was going to kill me and Toto.”

Herb’s fist landed against the door. “You’re tellin’ me Gulch threatened to kill you first?”

Dorothy nodded. “She never got the chance, though. The others came to our rescue high in the witch’s tower.” She jogged from one side of The Cloud to the other. “We ran and ran! Down the stone stairs. We flew outside and up along the castle’s walls while her Winkie guards were in pursuit.”


She stopped in the middle of her room. “This will go much smoother if you,” she flung her fists behind her arched chest, “STOP – INTERRUPTING – ME!”

Halbert’s pen hit the concrete. Dorothy’s masked face turned to him, heaving with each labored breath.

“My apologies, Dorothy.” He knelt down and nabbed it and stood. “Please.”

She groaned and walked to the adjacent wall. “I was at the point in my story where we stopped anyway.” Gale’s arms flew up in a protective gesture. “The witch flung fire on the Scarecrow. How was I to know?”

Halbert considered a question, and then bit his lip.

“I grabbed a nearby bucket of water and tossed it at the Scarecrow’s arm.” She held open hands at the floor. “Once it hit her, she melted into nothing. Poof. Gone.” Dorothy snapped her slippers together and bowed. “That’s how I defeated the Wicked Witch and freed the Winkies.”

Herb tossed a glance up at the asylum’s outside wall. Somewhere in the fresh air beyond, thunder rolled. He smoothed out the official report. “Folks over here saw something else, Gale.”

Her arms went up in defeat. “Here we go again.”

“This would be the point where you listen to what I have to say.”

Her slippered feet raced over the floor as fast that she slid the last two feet into her side of the big door. Dorothy pressed her mask against the mesh. “Don’t you dare speak to me in that tone.”

Herb’s chest thumped like an angry bee trapped in a screen door. Her vile grin peeled back, revealing teeth ready to gnaw him to his bones.

He attempted to write, but the ink refused to crawl back out. “Who’s on which side of the door, Gale?”

Herb took a lungful of stale air and proceeded. “Police and the local volunteer fire brigades arrived in time to bear witness to your aftermath. The two-story plantation home of Almira Gulch went up like a torch, Gale.” He flipped to the next page. “Says here, the Fire Marshall discovered charred human remains in the kitchen area. He also found a blackened gas can near the body. The Marshall suspects that Mrs. Gulch had been doused in her own gasoline in her own home and set on fire.” Halbert scoffed. “Here’s the kicker. You went as far as to ransack her broom closet by the back door. The other mops had been left strewn all over.”

He folded the report. “A real piece of work. It all makes sense now.” Herb pecked the wire on his side. “How’s it look from your side, Gale?” He shook his pen. “Looks fine from where I’m standing.” Herb slapped his pen against a leg. Nada. “Damn.” He pocketed the spent implement. “We’ll have to pick up our date at another time, dear. I’m all spent.”

Joshua, can you tell us what brought about the idea for this book?

I felt that there was something untold about the original story. With all of the folklore and myth surrounding it, I wanted to create something that brought it all together in one explanation. Some people won’t get, and that’s fine. For those that do, they’re in for a wild ride.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In writing, I see myself surrounded with a couple of dozen completed works, a smattering of published short stories, and maybe a commissioned stage play script. We’ll see.

Have you been given any helpful advice? If so What?

Margaret Weis was my mentor for a year. She gave me several pieces of sound advice. One of them that sticks out is: people are drawn to your story by its characters. They hang around for their growth within the plots and settings. It’s true! We all want to live out other fantasies through relatable people. If we can’t see at least a bit of ourselves in them, we move on.

Currently, what are you working on?

I’ve got a few works in progress. Dirty America is a psychological thriller that’s being made into a film. I’m also writing a sci-fi and a fantasy epic around this project. I’m compelled to create. I can’t help myself.

I agree it can be an addictive process. What has been the most difficult thing you have struggled with since you began a career in writing?

Finding my own writing voice was difficult. You can research grammar and storytelling, but writing is the only way to find your voice.

Tell us a little bit about your main characters

Most of the cast is well-known. The main character, Herb Halbert, is a detective re-examining the case. Not exactly Bogie, but a tough cookie nonetheless.

What was your favorite scene to write?

That’s like picking my favorite kid. If I do it right, then they’re all great scenes.

What has been the best compliment you have received?

I’ve been blessed with great readers. Some have been moved to tears, while others have noted they’ll miss the characters when it’s done. They all mean a lot to me.

What kind of research do you do before you start a new story?

I have an elaborate preproduction process that I use to create characters, plot, everything.

Joshua how do you promote your books? Any tips you can share?

I’d say get involved on a genuine level with other readers and writers. We want real relationships with you not your persona.

That's great advice. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

Sometimes. I look for readers interested in my work. If they have a passion for the genre, then they’ll give straight feedback.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

I do about all of my own these days.

How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I take what I can from them and learn from others.

I think that's a great attitude to have. Is there something you learned from writing your first book?

From my first novel, I learned how NOT to write a novel. Many of the greats that have been around a lot longer than me will tell you the same thing. Your first novel is (will be) crap. You will learn so much more after the second, third, and fourth ones that it will pale in comparison.

Joshua, which do you find more challenging inventing the hero or the villain?  Why?

They both have their challenges. It depends on the story. I’ve encountered instances for both and neither.

How many times do you think you read your book before going to print?

Dozens of times! 

Any last words?

Read often. Learn more. Write every day.

Thanks for sharing with us today Joshua. Happy Reading!!

Don’t forget to send me images of your cover and author pic!

Thanks again!