Sunday, 28 February 2010

Review - Goosebumps Horrorland #8 Say Cheese - And Die Screaming!

Goosebumps Horrorland #8 Say Cheese - And Die Screaming!
BY: R.L. Stine
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-439-91876-3
Pages: 125
Ages: Ages 9-12
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Julie Martin is a photographer for the school yearbook. She buys an old camera at a garage sale, but this camera isn’t like her old one. This camera evil. It has the power to predict a deadly future for anyone who is in the snapshot.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

My Trusty Reading Pals

Note: Previously published in Once Upon A Time magazine.

My Trusty Reading Pals

By Billy Burgess
When you’re are busy writing short stories or novels, you’ll find yourself neglecting the important things in life. Writers should never forget to read just for pleasure. For me, this can be a definite problem. I live in a small town where the only place to buy a new book is at Walmart, which carries a limited amount. Of course, my town does have a nice library, and I make frequent visits to check out books.

Never overlook Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores, garage sales and flee markets. These are great places to get hard-to-find books. Sometimes the books are a little used, but they’re still readable. You can also find books that look brand new.

I have a particular Salvation Army that I go to frequently. Over the years I’ve found books by Eve Bunting, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and many other wonderful authors. Just last weekend, I found two Berenstain Bears books. I’m excited to find them because they take me back to my childhood years and they spark creativity in my writing. It’s a reminder of why I love writing in the first place - to create wonderful characters and stories that will be remembered by children.

I’m a writer who likes to keep books at hand. What do I mean by this? When I’m writing a children‘s story, I like to refresh my memory by reading a book that is at the age level that I’m writing for. If I’ve read several adult books in a row, my writing style seems to change a little when I go to write a children’s story. My words can become a little too big and a little too descriptive.

This is where a book becomes handy. I currently have “Henry and Beezus” by Beverly Cleary on my desk. I loved reading this book as a child and I still love reading it today. It takes me back to a more simpler time, where there are no deadlines, bills to be paid or other issues that life throws at me.

Remember, no matter how old you are, you’re never too old to read your favorite children’s books.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thursday Ramblings

I can't believe that it's almost midnight. Time flies when you are cleaning a bathroom. Yes, I'm cleaning at night. And, yes, I'm now sitting here drinking a cup of coffee. What can I say, I'm a night owl.

My reading has been a slow this week. I've read three-fourths of Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. I'm on page 68 of Glenn Beck's Common Sense. I'm going to try to finish Worst Case by tomorrow night, as I should be receiving a book tomorrow to read and review.

Review - Goosebumps Horrorland #7 My Friends Call Me Monster

Goosebumps Horrorland #7 My Friends Call Me Monster
BY: R.L. Stine
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-439-91875-6
Pages: 138
Ages: Ages 9-12
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

In “My Friends Call Me Monster”, Michael Munroe and his two friends, Daisy and DeWayne sneak into their teacher’s, Mrs. Hardesty, house to leave a black cat because Mrs. Hardesty is superstitious. But their teacher is keeping a dark secret hidden in her attic - giant monster eggs that are ready to hatch.

Mrs. Hardesty comes home early, and the kids discover that their teacher is not human. Daisy and DeWayne escape the house, but Michael decides to go back to the attic. Now the real horror begins….

The second part in the book continues the Horrorland storyline. Michael gets invited to the Horrorland theme park, where he meets Abby Martin. They soon bump into the other kids from previous installments. He helps them learn more about the mysterious Panic Park.

This is a fun book for kids to read. Every kid has a teacher they thought was a monster, but in this book the teacher really is a monster. Great read!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Review - Resolution by Robert. B. Paker

BY: Robert B. Parker
ISBN: 978-0-399-15504
Pages: 292
Ages: Adult
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

“Resolution” is the second book in the trilogy and picks up exactly where “Appaloosa” left off. Everett Hitch ends up in the town of Resolution - a town with no law. He is offered and accepts a job as a lookout at Amos Wolfson’s Blackfoot Saloon. He is soon known as the protector of the ladies who work in the saloon.

Everett’s old friend, Virgil Cole, arrives in town. Eamon O’Malley, a mine owner, starts buying up some of the local businesses. This upsets the local ranchers. Everett and Virgil are caught in the middle of the war.

“Resolution” is an amazing western with wonderfully crafted dialogue. It’s a must read for any fans of the later Robert B. Parker.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Review - The Outsider by Ann H. Gabhart

The Outsider: A NovelThe Outsider
BY: Ann H. Gabhart
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3239-4
Pages: 345
Ages: Adult
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

I stumbled upon this novel at my local library and checked it out. “The Outsider” is set in the Harmony Hill Shaker community in 1812. The Shakers (believers) is a very strict religious community.

The main character is Gabrielle Hope - a young woman who happy living in the brethren. A doctor from the outside world comes into Harmony Hill to help save one of the Shakers. The story becomes a little predictable as Gabrielle starts to fall in love with the doctor and she begins questioning her loyalty to the community.

The author has done a lot of research on the Shakers. The only other book I have read on them is “The Believers” by Janice Holt Giles. I was easily hooked into the book after reading the first paragraph.

Review - Cross Country by James Patterson

Cross Country
BY: James Patterson
PUBLISHED BY: Little, Brown & Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-01872-1
Pages: 322
Ages: Adult
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Detective Alex Cross is back in “Cross Country.” This time an entire family is slaughtered by a gang of teenagers led by Tiger - an insane warlord. Alex Cross has a past with the family and takes the case personally. With the help of his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, they track down the killers into the African underworld of Washington D.C.. The trail eventually takes Alex to Africa, where he hunts for warlord, Tiger.

I’m a fan of this series, but “Cross Country” is not the best book written by James Patterson. It’s predictable at at time and just plain boring. If you’re not a fan of the series, then I don't recommend reading it!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Review - A Case of Love by Kaye Dacus

When I received “A Case of Love” in the mail, I didn’t know what to think. I’m not a fan of contemporary romance, and by the first glance at the silly cover, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. After reading the first few chapters, I proved myself wrong.

The book revolves around two strong-willed characters, Forbes Guidry - a famous lawyer, and Alaine Delacroix - a reporter. After Alaine’s parent’s business is in jeopardy due to a takeover by a local corporation, she hires a lawyer who does pro bono cases. Of course, this lawyer happens to be Forbes Guidry - the son of the corporation that Alaine wants to sue.

The author, Kaye Dacus, uses clever dialogue to tell this odd romance story. The plot is a little silly and somewhat predictable at times. Despite it’s faults, I still found myself flying through the pages.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Review - Riverhaven Years: Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff

This is the first novel I have read by author BJ Hoff, and it won’t be the last. The book is set in the year 1855 in a small Amish settlement near Riverhaven, Ohio. During the night, Rachel Brenneman, a young widowed Amish woman, hears someone knocking on her door.

A black man named Asa is standing at the door carrying a wounded Irish-American riverboat captain, Jeremiah Gant. He had been shot and needed medical attention. Rachel lived alone, but her younger sister Fannie was there visiting. She sends Fannie to get her mother and brother, Gideon.

The Amish community, including Rachel’s mother, is reluctant to help this mysterious stranger. Rachel helps both Asa and Jeremiah as she still deals with the pain of her husband’s death.

I have read a lot of Amish fiction books over the years. Some are good and some are not so good. “The Riverhaven Years: Rachel’s Secret” stands out from the others, thanks to BJ Hoff’s simple storytelling. I recommend this book to fans of Amish books, historical fiction lovers or anyone who likes reading a clean romance novel.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Review - Goosebumps Horrorland: Who's Your Mummy?

Goosebumps Horrorland #6 Who’s Your Mummy?
BY: R.L. Stine
COVER ART: Brandon Dorman
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN-13: 9780439918749
ISBN-10: 043991874X
Ages: 9-12
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

When Abby and Peter’s grandmother becomes ill, they have to stay with their creepy Uncle Jonathan in a scary old village. Uncle Jonathan collects antiques from Egypt. He even has an ancient mummy tombs in his living room.

Review - Goosebumps Horrorland #5 Dr. Maniac VS. Robby Schwartz

Goosebumps HorrorLand #5: Dr. Maniac vs. Robby SchwartzGoosebumps: Horrorland
#5 Dr. Maniac VS. Robby Schwartz
BY: R.L. Stine
COVER ART BY: Brandon Dorman
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-91873-2
ISBN-10: 0-439-91873-1
Ages: 9-12
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Robby Schwartz loves comics and has created his own comic strips on his computer. One of his characters, Dr. Maniac, is a wicked supervillain. Dr. Maniac has escaped into the real word and has kidnapped his younger brother. Robby must team up with another supervillain, the Purple Rage, to stop Dr. Maniac’s evil plan.

The second story contiues in Horrorland. Robby Schwartz gets lost in Wolfsbane Forest. There he meets Carly Beth and Sabrina. Together they escape the forest.

Robby explores the park some more and finds a room that has over 100 video games. One of the games is called Dr. Maniac’s World of Pain. Robby slips on the remote gloves to play the game and now they won’t come off.

I thought the first story was a little silly, but comic book lovers will probably like it. The second story was short, but it still keeps your interest.

Review - Goosebumps: Horrorland #4 The Scream of the Haunted Mask

Carly Beth can’t forget the horror she went through in “The Haunted Mask” and “The Haunted Mask II.” She hid the Halloween mask in the basement of her house, hoping it would stay dormant.

She and her best friend Sabrina volunteer at the Tumbledown Farms, an after-school program. One of the other students tells the ghost story of the farm. Many years ago, a stable boy mysteriously died in the barn. He now haunts the barn looking for his haunted mask.

Someone wants the haunted mask back and will do anything to get it.

The second story picks up in “Horrorland” from the previous book. Carly Beth and Sabrina have won a free trip to the theme park. While at a magic show, they meet Billy and Matt. During the show Billy’s sister, Sheena, reappears.

While Billy, Sheena and Matt search for the missing Britney and Molly, Carly and Sabrina explore a mask shop. All of the masks look like real faces!

This installment in the series is a little more scarier than the previous ones. I would recommend reading the first two haunted mask books before this one.

Review - Goosebumps Horrorland: #3 Monster Blood For Breakfast!

Monster Blood for Breakfast! (Goosebumps HorrorLand, No. 3)

Goosebumps: Horrorland
#3 Monster Blood For Breakfast!
BY: R.L. Stine
COVER ART BY: Brandon Dorman
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-91871-8
ISBN-10: 0-439-91871-5
Ages: 9-12
Reviewed by: Billy Burgess

In this third installment, Matt Daniels is being tormented by his neighbor, Bradley. He wants to dress just like him and follow him wherever he goes. He even copies Matt’s answers to the science test.

Bradley buys a plastic egg that contained monster blood and leaves it at Matt’s house. Matt accidentally spills a few drops on his ivory plant. The next morning the plant had tripled in size.

His little sister, Livvy, puts a few drops of monster blood into Bradley’s cereal. She confesses to Matt and he starts to worry what might happen to Bradley. He is shocked when he finds out that the cereal bowls were switched. He ate the monster blood!

During his swim meet, he starts to grow just like his ivory plant. How will he stop growing?

The second story picks up in “Horrorland” from the previous book. Britney and Molly are still missing. Matt, Billy and Sheena (who is now invisible) are being chased by two MP Horrors. They want the mysterious key card that was given to Billy.

The kids hide from the Horrors in the Dr. Twisted’s Science Lab. Billy opens a jar and released the monster blood.

The first story is a little predictable but at the same time it’s still enjoyable. Once again the second story is only 30 pages and ends in a cliffhanger. I think the mini-stories in each book are very clever. This keeps you wanting to read more Goosebumps.

Review - Goosebumps: The Campfire Collection

Goosebumps The Campfire CollectionGoosebumps: The Campfire Collection
BY: R.L. Stine
PUBLISHED BY: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0-760-74719-3
ISBN-10: 0-7607-4719-9
Ages: 9-12
Reviewed by: Billy Burgess

In “The Curse of Camp Cold Lake”, Sarah Maas is spending her summer vacation at a water sports camp. One of the rules of the camp is that you can’t swim without a swimming buddy. This is difficult for Sarah because she is having a hard time making new friends. A ghost named Della suddenly appears at the camp and she wants to be Sarah’s buddy….forever.

Harry and his brother, Alex, are spending the rest of their summer vacation at Camp Spirit Moon in “Ghost Camp.” Shortly after they arrive, the camp counselor tells a ghost story. Harry and Alex start to believe that the story is true. Is everyone at the camp a ghost?

The campers of Campy Nightmoon are mysteriously disappearing.Why do they have to write letters daily to their parents? What are the creatures in the woods? What’s in the Forbidden Bunk? These are just some of the questions Billy and his friends are trying to answer in “Welcome to Camp Nightmare.”

Three of R.L. Stine’s scariest stories are now together in one hardback edition for a reasonable price. This is a great book for your kids to take on sleepovers, camping trips and vacations.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Review - There Are No Words

There Are No Words

There Are No Words
BY: Mary Calhoun Brown
ISBN: 978-09776300-2-8
Pages: 127
Ages: YA & Up
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

“There Are No Words” tells the story of a 12-year-old autistic girl named Jaxon McKenzie. She is mute, but she secretly loves to read. After her father passed away, her mother left her to be raised by her grandparents.

Late one night, Jaxon went downstairs to look at the painting her uncle had made. The painting of a path in the woods with two small figures in the background. One of the figures moves closer. The figure is of a girl. The girl whispers, “Come with us. We’ve been waiting for you.”

Jaxon reaches out for the girl and steps into the painting. She is now out of her time and somehow able to talk. She befriends Sara, Dewey and Oliver. Soon she learns that she is in the year 1918. The year of the great train wreck.

“There Are No Words,” is a fun, exciting adventure. Author Mary Calhoun Brown has created a wonderful tale surrounded by actual events. The book includes a reader’s guide for parents and teachers. Children and adults will easily connect with the main character, Jaxon. I enjoyed reading the book and recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction.

*Note: I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to read and review.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Review - The Sultan's Favorite by Anne Burnside

The Sultan’s Favorite
BY: Anne Burnside
ISBN: 978-1-4401-1907-1
Pages: 435
Ages: Adult
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

In this sequel to Gaton Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” the phantom, Erik, is living in the Ottoman Empire. He’s working as the sultan’s personal architect. He’s still mourning the rejection of his love, Christine.

The sultan takes a third wife, Alexandria - the widow of the ruler of Constantinople, and demands Erik to make changes in the designs for the new palace. The sultan wants his new wife to have her own court.

Erik hates Ottoman Empire and the way the women and slaves are treated. He remains there to finish the palace because he believes it will be his greatest achievement. With one look at Alexandria, he knew she was unlike the sultan‘s other wives. She was smart, beautiful and independent. Erik begins spending time with her. Alexandria wants to get closer to this masked man.

Erik tries to control his ongoing feelings for her. He never thought he could ever feel this way about another woman after Christine’s rejection. Soon, he can no longer hold back his feelings. He starts a passionate affair with Alexandria.

Being a fan of the original novel, I was intrigued in reading “The Sultan’s Favorite.” After reading the first few pages, I was hooked. Author Anne Burnside has done a wonderful job in continuing Erik’s journey into this violent world of the Ottoman Empire. I was surprised to find two other characters from Gaton Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera” pop into the latter half of the book. I recommend reading this book if your fan of the original or for anyone who wants to read a good romance.

*Note: I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to read and review.