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Review of “Diablo” by Fallacious Rose

Let’s get psychological and play word association. What images come to mind when you hear the word “horse?”

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll think of majestic, beautiful animals galloping through green meadows, their manes billowing in the breeze. Or maybe you think of a glue factory.

But of all the things that pop into my head when I hear the word “horse,” “evil mastermind” has to be one of the last.

That’s the premise of Diablo by Fallacious Rose, a new horse tale available here.

The book follows Kim, a teenage girl who dreams of owning a horse. Though her family has failed with a horse before, Kim’s dreams become sweet, juicy reality when she moves to the country with her brother, her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, Alan, hoping to endear himself to his girlfriend’s kids and with no hypnotists in sight, Alan buys Kim her dream horse, Diablo.

The horse’s name proves to be apt. Diablo refuses to be ridden, stay in his pen, or even budge when it doesn’t suit his schedule. Despite Kim’s best efforts, Diablo turns up his nose at proper horse behavior and is, Kim suspects, secretly plotting world domination.

After a few lessons in “natural horsemanship” techniques, Kim begins to take control of not just Diablo, but of her own relationships. She makes peace with her obnoxious brother Jake, deals with the mounting tension in her family, and bests, then befriends, her rival, Ebony. Through a lot of trials and horse poop, Kim learns to control her emotions and not to base her behavior or happiness on her reactions to other people.

My favorite part of Diablo was the horse dialogue. The horses talk just like any other characters, but only some of the humans, those who are attuned to the animals and “speak horse”, can understand them. A lot of dialogue scenes play out like this:

“Diablo started hopping around on three legs like it was a novelty race and I was his partner. Only compared to his great hairy legs, mine are like twigs.

I tried to get a back leg up to look at, but Diablo just leaned on it and said,

‘You want my back hoof? You’ll get my back hoof, if you’re not careful.’ and swished his tail suggestively. It was time to move around the front end.

‘Ok. Now what about your halter?’

‘Huh? Haven’t I already told you I’m busy? What does a guy have to do around here –put up a big sign up, Do Not Disturb?’

‘Just give me your nose for a second.’ I got down on the ground in front of him, trying to get his shiny new halter over his hose while he’s chewing like it’s his last meal, and before he opens his mouth to take another great mouthful.”

The conversations between Kim and Diablo are a lot of fun to read and give the book a jaunty feel.

Another unique trait of this book is its use of horse terminology. I have about as much experience with horse ownership as I do with sponge-bathing William Howard Taft.

Through Diablo, I learned a lot about basic horse care. I didn’t know what a “grazing muzzle” or “carrot stick” was or what it meant to “plait” a horse’s tail until I read Diablo. The book teaches these terms, but never comes across as textbook-y. The horse care terminology slides easily into the characters’ world and helps it spring to life.

Diablo has a laid-back tone. It’s no Tolkien-esque adventure and instead simply lets you immerse yourself in Kim and Diablo’s world. The tone causes the story to feel more lifelike and makes the handful of intense moments, like Jake’s near-death encounter with a snake, all the more suspenseful.

If you’re in the mood for something easy, fun, and entirely unique, get your hands on some okra-flavored Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. And read Diablo. It’ll have you laughing and learning as you get sucked into a world of country living and snarky horses. Come to think of it, Snarky Horses is a great band name. I think it’s time to dig out my trombone and get the guys together…

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Reading Recommendations

When I visit with kids and parents about my own books, I’m often asked about books I recommend to young readers. I usually mention my own books first. Because, you know, books about cybernetic llamas don’t sell themselves.

But I do have several other suggestions of books for kids in roughly the same demographic as my readers. I decided it was high time I shared them:

1. Double Vision (Reading Level: 6th Grade and up)
Described as “James Bond for kids,” this series of books keeps the adventure and surprises coming at a rapid pace. The author, F.T. Bradley, has been a big help to me in my own writing endeavors.

2. Captain Underpants (Reading Level: 3rd Grade and up)
If I had to name only one book that got me into reading as a kid, it would be Captain Underpants. The misadventures of the two boys who transform their principal into a bombastic, briefs-wearing superhero has been beloved by kids for over twenty years, and the books were recently made into a movie.

3. Redwall (Reading Level: 5th Grade and up)
I started reading the Redwall books in sixth grade and devoured them like a starving poodle devours cupcakes. The books focus on small forest creatures such as mice, squirrels, and hedgehogs, who live in a medieval society. They go on epic quests, fight intense battles, and desperately try to defend their precious Redwall Abbey.

4. Treasure Island (Reading Level: 8th Grade and up)
There’s nothing wrong with the classics. Written in 1883, this book features adventure on the high seas, a treasure hunt, and an island full of mysteries. Treasure Island created many of the pirate tropes and traditions still seen in books and movies today and features some of my favorite characters in literature.

5. Two Dogs in a Trench Coat (Reading Level: 3rd Grade and up)
Though it hasn’t yet been released (the first book is set to come out next year), this series about two dogs who don a trench coat in order to follow their boy into the human world promises to be a lot of fun. One Scholastic editor recently described it as “the soul and essence of a Looney Tunes short [written] into a middle grade book.” I’m inclined to believe him.

6. Books based on movies, television shows, etc.
One of the best ways to get into reading is to read books based on franchises you already enjoy. Many movies and other media also have book adaptations. For example, there are mountains of Star Wars books, most of which are a lot of fun.

Feel free to email me for more reading recommendations, as these are really just the tip of the iceberg.

Review of “The Digital Dimension” by Andrew

Some of you may remember my first post on the writing blog, which included a review of Bob and the Cyber-Llama by my young friend, Andrew Empedocles. For the unenlightened, the review went as follows:

Dear Joseph,

                 Your Bob and the cyber-llama book was amazing!!!!! Your book was the best book I have ever read!!!!!  Every part is so good, that I don’t even know what my favorite part was!!!!!  I stayed up all night reading it because it was so good.  Please make another book and send it to me.  I’m even making some books that I am going to send to you.

                                                                                     From,

                Andrew

(P.S. I wish that I could put llama emoji’s all over the page, but I don’t know how)

Mr. Empedocles kept his word and cooked up a literary work of grand proportions known as The Digital Dimension.

It is a work of suspense and mystery featuring three adventurers: Trevor, Aaron, and Greyson. The three are real-life friends of the author (I’m sure that, since the book was written, the three of them have graduated from Harvard or created a vaccine to eradicate mesothelioma or something.) Beginning with a prologue, we find Greyson lying in a hospital bed with a splitting head wound.

As he slowly regains consciousness, Greyson is greeted by Trevor and Aaron, who stumble into the hospital wrapped in bandages and covered in bruises and scrapes. Trevor then spins a tale of intrigue and tension and tells Greyson that, after Greyson was knocked out by a well-placed baseball, Trevor and Aaron rented a video game from a suspicious game store. We’ve all rented video games right after hospitalizing our friends, right?

Trevor reveals that, after injuring their friend, he and Aaron were sucked into a strange video game world full of hostile, pixelated bears, thick forests of mystery, and a creature “part monkey part rhinocerous part bear and more things of animals that we couldn’t even understand what it was.”

The Digital Dimension also features a parallel story about a man sent of a variety of daring missions by a mysterious employer. He travels into the digital dimension and explores a dark, Egyptian museum full of death traps. How this fellow’s story ties into the overall tale is a secret I don’t dare reveal.

With the threats of pixelated monkey-rhino creatures, reanimated mummies, and alien invasions looming, Trevor and Aaron must escape the digital dimension before their real world is consumed by chaos. If you’re a fan of adventure books, high-brow literature, or sentences like “the beast punched him to Jupiter”, give The Digital Dimension a read.

But I really couldn’t put it any better than the critic featured on the back of the book:

“A MASTERPIECE! Andrew Empedocles does it again, with a riveting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the very end! It has all the wit and thrill of Michael Crichton, with the chilling futuristic vision of Arthur C. Clark, rolled together into a brilliant story that will hold you in suspense…and have you laughing milk out your nose. The Digital Dimension is a definite must read.”

-Andrew’s dad

The Charity Month was a Huge Success!

Sound the trumpets! Kill the fattened mongoose!

The charity month was a huge success!

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the blog, I will be donating all of the profits I earned during the month of August to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled Kids. I wasn’t sure how much I’d earn, but thanks to the generousity of our readers, Curt Fulster and I raised a bundle!

The biggest event of the month was the Western Welcome Week festival in downtown Littleton. We manned a booth all day, gained some new readers, and raised quite a bit for the charities. We even got a couple of generous cash donations from some older gents.

Special thanks to my mom and dad and Matt, Sarah, and Alethea Bubke for helping out (Matt’s improvised song and dance made a lot of festival-goers curious about our booth)!

I’m honored  that I was able to help raise money to fight childhood cancer and help disabled kids. The charity  month was a fantastic experience and something I may revisit in the future…

Review of “The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds” by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock

In-between bouts of “Super Smash Brothers” and watching pirated episodes of Fraggle Rock, I occasionally set foot outside my apartment to experience the beauty of nature. Granted, the “nature” outside my apartment typically consists of the singular tree next to the elevator and a fat, mustachioed gentleman sitting on the grass eating Cheetos, but still, it’s healthy to experience the magnificence of God’s creation.

The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock immerses readers in the natural world. It’s a fascinating nature lesson for kids, or adults, of any age (I learned the names of a few birds I wasn’t familiar with.)

This work is based on a book with the same title already in the public domain. The author used this books as a jumping-off point and has composed most of the poems herself, adding the illustrations. So it’s a little like my twenty six-volume set of Tom Sawyer/Fifty Shades of Gray fan fiction. Only The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds is actually good. And allowed in Oklahoma.

Each of the twenty-six birds is introduced with a letter and described in a short rhyme. The rhymes teach readers a little about the birds involved, like the fact that the Ibis “wanders in bogs and lives upon lizards and fishes and frogs.” It’s a simple story structure, but a great way to make learning fun. The sing-song-y tone will hold a kids attention like a starving Ethiopian gripping a carrot stick.

But the most impressive thing about this book is the art. By applying artistic effects to photographs, the author creates stunning pictures that look like they were drawn with colored pencils or painted. The end result is collection of beautiful pieces of art that truly look like the birds they represent.

So the next time you’re jonesin’ for some nature, pick up The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds. The book is a treat for your kids’ eyes, as well as their ears, and may encourage them to do some bird research themselves. Just don’t let them near an ostrich farm on espresso night. One of those little trips cost me an appendix.

Bob and the Cyber-Llama at Western Welcome Week

I have yet another piece of poodle-roastingtly exciting news: I’m going to have a booth at the Western Welcome Week festival in downtown Littleton on August 19!

The Western Welcome Week festival has taken place once a year for almost a hundred years. It’s a huge community celebration in downtown Littleton, Colorado. Events take place from 8am to 5pm on most days from Friday, August 11 through Sunday, August 20.

The real action takes place on Saturday, the 19th. There’s a huge parade, a bunch of vendors selling books, food, entertainment, and other goodies, an obstacle course, gryphon rides, orca-eating contests, and giant robot battles. Or at least, some of those things.

I’ll be sharing a booth with Curt Fulster of C. Fulsty Books, who’s also donating his August profits to charity.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be donating all of the money I make in August to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled Kids. This includes all of my Western Welcome Week sales, so be sure to stop by and support a good cause.

Stay tuned for details on my booth location!

Charity Donation Month

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my underwear eating Doritos and watching The Smurfs when I thought, “You know, maybe I should get off my butt and do something that makes a difference.”

So I put on pants.

And then I decided to help out some charities. Throughout August, I’ll be partnering with Curt Fulster of C. Fulsty Books and donating all of my profits to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled kids!

CURE Childhood Cancer is committed to seeing childhood cancer cured during our lifetime. They’ve raised over $32 million over the last ten years to fund research and support kids and their families. CURE provides services to people in a variety of situations; they offer resources to families of recently-diagnosed kids, help out with meals, and even provide after-treatment services for families with kids done with treatment.

I didn’t choose to donate to CURE by throwing a dart at a spinning wheel-o-charities. I’ve been affected by childhood cancer twice. In 2000, my baby cousin, Parker Caldara, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died shortly thereafter. And a few years ago, my friend Cade Humphreys  got cancer, too. He’s finished his treatments and is doing well (his screenings have all been excellent – no sign of the cancer returning!)

The other charity I’ll be donating to is Canines for Disabled Kids, which provides service dogs for children with disabilities. When it was founded in 1998, very few charities were willing to provide such dogs for disabled kids, (service dogs are pretty expensive.) By providing scholarships to these kids and their families, CDK was able to make service dogs available to a lot more children and reduce the time it takes for kids to get one.

CDK also emphasizes educating people about the importance of service dogs and offers resources for families interested in such a dog.

Keep an eye on the website for future posts about the charity month and please use the links above to visit the CURE and CDK websites. I’m proud to be able to help out these organizations throughout all of August.

And I’ll be wearing pants the entire time.