Friday, December 23, 2016

Juggernaught: Chapter 11 - Friends

Though Howell seemed to thrive on misinformation, there was no longer any doubt to the Moast group concerning who was part of his team and who was not.

The boy he had sat next to on the tour bus was a complete red herring.  He had somehow convinced the lone traveler that this was all some sort of ongoing practical joke at the expense of Jack and his friends.  (Which was partially true, after all.)  The other kid ate it up.

It didn't take long to expose this deception because, like Jack and his friends, Howell's group was also supposed to be a trio.

With a little more digging they found out that the two girls across the isle from him on the bus were really named Lola and Irmingard Rabishaw, and not "Jane" and "Mary" as their nametags claimed.

It was Misty's idea.  " 'Jane'?  Seriously?  Nobody would have names that generic." she'd concluded.  And she was proved right, (notwithstanding the muddy logic of it).

Over the miles, at various stops, the teams took turns testing eachother with various exercises in the covert arts.

It was during one of these, that Jack and Wendell exchanged a wink and immediately switched to using Lola and Irmingard's real names.  It was epic!  The girls were so flustered that they completely blew cover!

Score one point for the Yanks!

From the moment of Howell's phony phone call, pranks like were going on non-stop. 

Due to the fact that all luggage was kept out of sight in the cargo compartment under the bus, one never knew what would be in their bags when they arrived at their room for the night.

One time Wendell found that the entire contents of his toothpaste tube were swapped with clotted-cream scone filling - a very British gag, as if the culprits were not already obvious.

Wendell, the walking stomache, thoroughly approved of the switch.

By the next morning somebody had added a photo-reactive agent to Lola's makeup. The chemical was designed to change color when exposed to direct sunlight. 

On the bus, the results were compounded when she fell asleep against the window.  The entire left side of her face turned fluorescent orange!

Munich saw its first Oompa-Loompa tourist that day.

This one even earned Misty a high five from Lola's sister.

Soon, as the two groups became friends, the planned exercises became less of a rivalry and more of a nuisance.  They were more like a chapter of elementary school math that the teacher wanted to get through before recess.

Even Misty, who adored the spy games, found that she would rather see the sights with Howell.

One night the tour bus turned off European highway A-57 in Venice, but the "budget tours" did not allow for an overnight stay in the islands.  Rather, they put into Marghera for the night.

Who came up with the idea, nobody could remember, but a rough tally of the number of boys to beautiful girls led somebody to the idea of going out to a nice restaurant for a triple-date.

Misty had no problems in the world if Howell wanted to ask her out, but their surprising level of enthusiasm told her that Jack and Wendell were just as taken with Lola and Irmingard. 

The spy girls reciprocated their attraction in their own way.  Although according to the unofficial itinerary, they were supposed to poison the boys' meal that night, they decided not to spoil the mood.

Long after the other patrons had left the restaurant, Howell, Misty, Jack, Lola, Wendell, and Irmgard sat around the table laughing and talking.

"What time do you suppose they throw us out?" asked Jack to no one in particular.

"Nah, not in a classy joint like this." said Wendell.

Howell smiled, "I wouldn't have said it as American-ish as that, but spot on, my friend."

"I think I have just the thing."  Lola was up in a flash and gone before anybody could ask what she was up to.

Moments later she returned with a tea trolley following close at her heels.  Atop, a beautiful silver tea set.

A waiter, who showed all the signs of wanting to go home. (even in a "classy joint" like this) put out a place setting of small cups.  Into each, he poured hot liquid from a silver pot.

Lola nudged her sister and whispered, "I though we agreed not to --"

But Irmgard waved her off.

Once the waiter was done and on his way, Howell raised his ridiculously tiny cup, pinki extended in proper fashion.

"To good friends!" he declared and lifted it even higher in toast.

"To friends!" all agreed and swigged back their drink unanimously.

"Chqqaqqq" gagged Wendell.

"Okay, 'zing!' " agreed Jack.

Misty merely covered her eyes to keep them from popping out and rolling away.

Irmingard laughed.  "Cappuccino", she stated.  "Can't go to Italy and not try a cappuccino."

"Next time, warn a guy!" croaked Wendell.  But he wasn't angry.  He was too busy smiling at her.

And she was too busy smiling back.

It was a good evening - the sort of evening that never really ends because it lives on in your memory the rest of your life.  Good friends and good fun.

The trip passed like in a happy dream.

But all that changed when they reached Bosnia.

The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

(Reluctant) Book Review - Larger Than Life Lara

Larger-Than-Life Lara
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
Cover Price: $9.99 USD 
ISBN: 978-1-4964-1430-4 
Release Date: November 2016 

Cover Synopsis:
This isn’t about me. This story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up. At least that’s what Mrs. Smith, our English teacher, says.

But the story is about ten-year-old Laney Grafton and the new girl in her class—Lara Phelps, whom everyone bullies from the minute she shows up. Laney is just relieved to have someone else as a target of bullying. But instead of acting the way a bullied kid normally acts, this new girl returns kindness for a meanness that intensifies . . . until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader.

I've been dragging my feet about writing this review for some time.  I didn't really like it and momma always said, "If you don't have anything good to say..."  Yet, unfortunately for me I also promised the publisher that I would give an honest review in exchange for the book.

So, it comes down to momma going head-to-head verses the Tyndale publishing team.  Cage match, live on pay-per-view!

But seriously, the premise is that the story is being written by a 10-year-old girl for a school project.  And I guess, in that regard you'd call it a success.  The rambling, disconnected thoughts, as well as grammatical and spelling mistakes all combine to give it the feel of an elementary school class assignment.

Of course there are two sides to that coin.  The opposite being: I want to read a good quality book, not some kid's class assignment!!!

This 10yo writer's goal is to write a story about something that happened in her life.  Intermingled with that she is also learning how to write, so we get little writing tips and suggestions sprinkled throughout.

As a homeschooling father I first I thought this could be used as a teaching tool, but as the story progressed I decided the teacher's methodology wasn't the way I would want to do teach it anyway.  And, of course, I've already graduated from elementary school (somehow against all odds), so I have a hard time seeing how this information does anything but slow us down.
Laura, the new girl in school, is fat.  Really fat.

Even in the face of some pretty brutal bullying, she is able to remain sweet and maintain a great positive attitude.

Bullying is really what the book is about.  It is really where the book shines.  It doesn't glorify it, nor does it shame the bullies!  Rather, it tells it like it is -- all the emotions, the pain and hurt, as well as the peer pressure aspect.

Best of all, it holds a message for the bullies themselves about how they can change.
It really is a great book on bullying!

I just... don't need a book on bulling.  (I homeschool, remember?)

This might be good if you need a book about bullying and the general meanness of kids, written in stumbling language that might make it easier for younger children to relate to.

If, instead, you're looking for a book to teach creative writing, I'd sooner recommend a more complete dedicated resource such as How to Write (And Sell) A Christian Novel by Gilbert Morris

Finally, if none of that applies and you just want a good story to read, well, you know what momma says...

Disclaimer:  As stated above, I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an hones,t unbiased review.  (Right about now they may be regretting the "honest, unbiased" part of that arrangement.)