ARC Review: The Bone Garden

Book Reviews
*** Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a free, honest review. All opinions are my own. ***


The Bone Garden.jpg

“The night was creeping away, yesterday tumbling into today.”

– Heather Kassner, The Bone Garden


The Bone Garden

By: Rae


“Made of dust and bone and imagination” main character Irréelle struggles to find her place in a world where magic tethers her to reality by a wielded thread. Constantly aiming to please her creator, Miss Vesper, mistake after mistake leaves her in danger of disappearing. When Irréelle commits an unforgiveable mistake, she flees and sets off on an adventure that will challenge everything she knows and believes in. What strange magic created her? Can she become what she always wanted to be?

Now, where to start?

I adored The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner; from the setting to detail to the characters – everything was a blend of lyrical spookiness that kept me enchanted until the very end.

The setting shifted between three main places: the house, underneath the house (the tunnels), and the graveyard. Set with a Victorian vibe, no place lacked in visual and sensory detail. I was able to creep along the tunnels with Irréelle, or wander aimlessly through the quiet graveyard. At the house I desperately wanted to sit in “the chair” and yet knew I wasn’t able to – just like Irréelle.

As for characters, Irréelle was wonderfully complex for being so young. Her thoughts were developed, as were emotions, and yet she fit exactly in her estimated age range. She worried about pleasing her parental figure. She longed to find her place. She desired understanding of things that were just out of reach. She hated getting reprimanded. Her bones creaked, her physical makeup was odd and strange. She looked ethereal. She wanted a friend to cure the loneliness. And so on.

Then there was Guy, Lass, The Hand, the watchman, N.M.H., and Miss Vesper. Each again were complex in their own right with their own contributions to the story weaving together simultaneously while staying true to themselves.

When the ending occurred… well you’ll just have to read the story yourself.


Rating: The Bone Garden 5/5 stars.

Author Interview: Joshua Levy

Author Interview

Meet Joshua Levy.

JoshLevy -- Author Photo.jpg

Joshua S. Levy was born and raised in Florida. After teaching middle school (yes, including seventh grade) for a little while, he went to law school. He lives with his wife and two children in New Jersey, where he practices as a lawyer. Unfortunately, outer space doesn’t come up in court nearly as often as he’d like. SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY is his first novel.

Social media links:
Twitter: @JoshuaSLevy


The Interview.


Hi Josh! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! Thanks for having me! I’m Josh, and my debut middle grade sci-fi novel, SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY came out on March 5!


What would an average school day, in space!, be like?

The thing about school in space—at least in the world (or universe) of SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY—is that it’s kind of the same as school back here on Earth. Tests. Assemblies. Homework. Model UN. Science Fairs. Peer pressure. Junior varsity sports leagues.

Sure, sometimes the kids play zero-gravity dodgeball. And sure, lunch is served by cranky robots. But kids are kids are kids. Here and now, or in space in 300 years. And kids have to go to school! (Until that school gets attacked by aliens and catapulted across the galaxy, of course. Then at least the principal might consider relaxing the dress code a little. Maybe.)


Where there any MG books that inspired you to write a MG novel?

Oh, absolutely. Middle grade fiction helped spark my love of stories and storytelling.

(That, and Star Wars.)

(Okay, fine. That, and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.)

Louis Sachar. Ellen Raskin. CS Lewis. Middle grade is such an important bridge to lifelong reading. And it’s a privilege to contribute, even a little, to this space. (No pun intended?)


Did of your past students influence characters in SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY?

On an individual basis, the main characters in SEVENTH GRADE VS.HE GALAXY—Jack, Becka, and Ari—aren’t based on actual people. Maybe snippets of them are. They’re certainly mishmashes of students I’ve taught, and others (and maybe myself too). But the time I spent teaching absolutely influenced the students in this book. Each student is different. Each student has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they can put their best selves forward, and sometimes they can’t. But they all deserve good teachers, who care about their well-being and treat them as if they’re as important as anything else in this universe.


If someone wasn’t a huge fan of space, what would be one fact you’d tell them to change their mind?

What a fascinating question. I totally understand the premise, even if it makes me a little sad. (And not just because space is awesome.)

Here’s what I’d say: There are so many incredible stories out there, told in an infinite number of settings. And that’s what “space” is here. Another setting. Another venue to convey a story about kids and mystery and adventure.

You don’t have to be a huge fan of British boarding schools to like Harry Potter. You don’t have to be a huge fan of Long Island summer camps to like Percy Jackson.

Don’t worry, I’m not comparing SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY to those peerless stories, except in this way: I don’t think you have to be a huge fan of space to like my book. Although maybe, when you’re done, you’ll change your mind anyway.


If you could go to any planet for a day, what planet would you be visiting?

Real planet: Mars. (The others just aren’t hospitable enough?)

Real moon: Ganymede. Maybe Callisto. Something with a decent view of Juputer.

Fictional moon: Yavin IV. (Did I mention how much I love Star Wars?)


Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

Keep reading! Keep writing! And tell all your friends to do the same!


Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Thank YOU!




Meet Author Heather Kassner

Author Interview, Misc.

Meet Heather Kassner.


Heather Kassner -  Cameron Straatsma (1).jpg

Welcome Heather! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself

Heather Kassner loves thunderstorms, hummingbirds, and books. She lives with her husband in Arizona, waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the rain, photographing hummingbirds, and reading and writing strange little stories. Her debut novel, The Bone Garden, will be published August 6, 2019 by Holt/Macmillan.



The Interview.

The Bone Garden gives me the shivers from the title to the summary! How did you pick this particular title? How important are titles to you – meaning do you need to pick one before or after you start writing?

Shivers? Perfect! Titles are important to me, but unfortunately, settling on just the right one is hard! While writing, I had a working title, but not one that I liked. The title for THE BONE GARDEN only came to me after the book was finished and I was polishing it for querying. I added a line of dialogue with this phrase and finally found my title! It was such a relief.


You play with darker aspects of magic, dealing with odd creatures and creations and all the rules that go with it. What setup do you have for the magic system for The Bone Garden?

Miss Vesper made Irréelle from dust and bone and dark imaginings, so at its most basic, this magic system is one of creation. However, Irréelle’s biggest fear is that she’s not real, not in the same way as other children. One of the things Irréelle sets out to do is to understand this magic. So, while I can’t go into much detail about the system without spoiling what Irréelle finds, I can say that the reader learns more about it as she does. And there are some very unexpected (and creepy) discoveries!


Did you ever find yourself struggling with your main character Irréelle in a sense she didn’t quite fit in a particular place or scene as she came to life?

Irréelle is a sweet crooked-boned girl who feels as if she belongs nowhere. Fitting in is one of her greatest challenges. So, to some degree, she had to fight her way into every scene. But in the sense that I struggled with writing her, she was not the one who gave me the most trouble. It was another character entirely who initially entered the book too late and needed an earlier introduction, which I tackled during revisions.


How did imagination give birth to The Bone Garden from its infancy to the final manuscript to publication?

Before I knew anything else, I knew the very first line of THE BONE GARDEN, which has remained unchanged through revisions.“She descended into the basement, tasked with collecting the bones.”

I imagined the whole story around this one sentence, starting with questions as simple as: Who is she? Who tasked her with this chore? And what are the bones for? It was so fun thinking of all the possibilities, and I let my imagination run wild, sitting there with my eyes shut, envisioning this girl, and the house she lived in, and the bone garden itself. As I began drafting, I tried to keep those initial visions in mind and transfer them to the page.

During revisions, I needed to add some tricky scenes, and while I knew that this one thing needed to happen, I didn’t know exactly how to make it happen. Again, the thing that finally sparked my imagination was visualizing everything before I even attempted to write a word.


As a middle grade novel, did you have to remove scenes at any point that perhaps were too intense for a younger reader? For that matter, what called you to write for the middle grade level?

There are definitely dark moments in THE BONE GARDEN, both what Irréelle experiences emotionally and what she encounters magically. However, no, I didn’t remove any of those scenes. In fact, when working on revisions with my editor, the book twisted even darker. My hope is that younger readers will embrace the darkness, much as Irréelle does, and through it, find what makes them shine brightest.

As for what drew me to middle grade, it was this feeling of possibility. I wanted to see the world as I did when I was younger. I was so excited to write something fun. Something hopeful. And also, something a little strange and creepy. And I just hope readers enjoy the story!


Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

Maybe this goes along with your question about imagination, but music always inspires my writing too. My husband is a musician and he wrote a little something for me for THE BONE GARDEN that fits the mood so perfectly (and means so much to me).


Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Thank you! It was so fun. 🙂



The Bone Garden is out August 2019!

Celebrate by pre-ordering this spooky MG tale!

Guest Post: “Why I Write Middle Grade” with Author Tara Gilboy

Guest Post

TARA GILBOY HEADSHOT.jpegMeet Tara Gilboy.

Tara Gilboy’s debut novel, Unwritten, releases on October 16. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and teaches for San Diego Community College District. She lives in Southern California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Biscuit.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @taramgilboy
Facebook: Tara Gilboy


The Guest Post.

Why I Write Middle Grade


The first novel I ever wrote was a middle grade novel.


I don’t know that you could actually call it a “novel,” since it was probably no more than fifty pages. But it had chapters, and a beginning, middle, and end. I was eight years old, and I wrote it in a blank hardcover journal that had a picture on the cover of a girl in a pioneer dress feeding chickens. So I started the story with my main character, ten-year-old Martha, feeding chickens. Then she went west in a covered wagon, and nearly everyone died. Only Martha, and her sister, Nan, made it to Oregon.


Only recently, I stumbled across a copy of the book Seven Alone, one I’d read as a child, and realized I’d stolen nearly the entire plot of my novel from it. But that’s beside the point. The reason I mention my pioneer novel is because it was the first novel I ever completed, and it was a middle grade story. Middle grade is where I started out writing, mostly because I loved reading middle grade books. I was writing the kinds of books I liked to read.


Around this same time, my parents went on vacation to Florida and left my brothers and me in the care of our grandmother.


I was very excited about this because it meant finally I was going to have the opportunity to get away with something my mom had forbidden. For the most part, my mom indulged my bookish dreaminess, but she drew the line when I wanted to go to school dressed as my favorite book characters. My friend, Jenny, also a bookworm, and I had been planning this for a while, but my mom, probably worried I’d be teased, said ‘no.’ My grandma, on the other hand, who usually gave me my way, didn’t mind at all.


For my character costume, I dressed as Samantha Parkington from the American Girl books. I wore a Victorian dress, but lacking the high-button shoes I needed, I wore tights and snow boots. I paired this with a shawl my mom had worn to her high-school prom. Jenny would be Kirsten Larson, also from the American Girl series. Jenny wore a pioneer dress and styled her hair into looped braids like Kirsten’s.


That day, while we were at school, dressed as our characters, Jenny’s house burned down. Though no one was hurt, it was still a terrible loss for her family, but what spooked Jenny and me most was that the same thing had happened to Kirsten in her book. Kirsten’s house, too, had burned down. We were convinced something in the story had come to life and set fire to Jenny’s house.


Twenty-five years later, I would write a novel about stories that came to life, though this is not where I got the idea for my novel. But I think mine and Jenny’s belief that the story had come alive is probably not a unique one. Middle grade readers accept wonder in the world and in their stories in a way that adults may not. I don’t mean that they are naïve or unsophisticated. I just mean that they are able to suspend disbelief and allow themselves to be fully immersed in, as Mark Twain would say, “a good story, well told.” As Lisa Cron reminds us in her brilliant book Story Genius, we are hardwired to immerse ourselves in stories. The same parts of our brain light up when we are reading about a character experiencing something as would light up were we actually experiencing it ourselves. Doesn’t this mean stories are real on some level? But we lose this ability to suspend disbelief a bit as we get older.


As I grew older, writing kind of slid to the backburner. When I was ready to seriously pursue writing again, in college, I turned to adult fiction, which after all was literary and serious and “important.” I decided I would write the great American novel. I penned lots of stories about serious subjects like marriage and relationships and feminism and social class, the kinds of stories I read in my literature classes. Some of them I even published. But I wasn’t having fun.


Then I started my MFA, which seemed the logical next step in my writing journey. I think I was worried if I didn’t complete an MFA, I might not have the discipline to keep writing. Perhaps this should have been my first warning sign – after all, if I loved writing as much as I said I did, I shouldn’t have needed to take classes to force myself to keep writing regularly. My first year of the MFA, I started working on a very serious historical novel that required lots of research. Every sentence was like pulling teeth. I couldn’t care about my characters, their financial problems, their marriage troubles, infidelity and in-laws and the struggles of raising children. Even though the teacher was fabulous, I couldn’t wait for the class to be over so I didn’t have to work on this book anymore. Writing was becoming a chore.


At the same time, I was taking a different class on children’s books and rereading all my old favorites and lots of new ones as well: Holes and Ella Enchanted and The Tale of Despereaux and Tuck Everlasting and RL Stine. They were filled with adventure and magic and excitement. These were the kinds of books that made me fall in love with reading (and writing) in the first place. They were filled with story, pure and simple. As I read them, I couldn’t stop thinking of story ideas. I wrote stories about witches who threatened to chop off heads. I wrote stories about dolls who came to life. I wrote stories about ghosts, a haunted antique shop, an orphan in Victorian London, pirates, mermaids, fairies, and yes, even pioneers. I could write in any genre I wanted – there weren’t any “rules” other than telling a story that would resonate with child readers. I realized I did my best work when I was having fun. Once I returned to writing middle grade, the stories that had first made me a reader and then a writer, I never looked back.


Middle grade readers care about the “ emotional truth” in stories. There is more truth in Charlotte’s Web, with all its talking animals, about friendship and love and sacrifice than in many thousand-page, extensively researched and no doubt, poetically written epic tomes about, say, war. Adults read and admire these long, literary adult novels about what are no doubt important issues, but we’re not going to stay up until one in the morning, reading under the covers with a flashlight. We’re not going to dress up like characters in these stories or think about what would happen if they came to life. We’re not going to fall in love with these stories, befriend them, make them real in our minds, the way we do as children. We do this with middle grade novels.


I write middle grade because they are the stories that made me a reader. They are the stories that first stirred me to write. And they are the stories that inspire me to love writing anew every single day.


Tara Gilboy’s debut, UNWRITTEN, is available for purchase!

Visit her site for more details!

Blog Tour: The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree

Blog Tour

spyglass.jpgThe Spyglass and the Cherry Tree
by Matt Beighton
Genre: Upper MG/YA Fantasy
Release Date: June 2017


Some people fall down rabbit holes. Others hide inside magical wardrobes. Skye Thistle looked through an old spyglass.

Lost and alone on a world filled with Goblins, Orcs, Dragons and others that, until now, she was convinced existed only in fairy tales, Skye wants only one thing: to return home.

If she’s to have any chance of getting home safely, Skye must overcome her own fears and prejudices and embrace the prophecies that she fears have already sealed her fate on the distant world of Ithilmir. All that stands in the way of restoring peace and balance is a fearsome and worryingly familiar Dark Queen.

Goblins are very real, and whether Skye believes in them or not, she’s their only hope.

Readers around the world are enjoying the complex mythology and descriptive world building of The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree, the first adventure in the Shadowlands Chronicles.

Add to Goodreads

Purchase links: 

Signed copies on Etsy:

(£1 off at Etsy with the code SPY100 (until end of November).

Guest Post

Writing for an Upper Middle Grade Reader

Writing for any age of child is hard. Writing for MG (middle grade) is particularly challenging. My younger readers’ series (Monstacademy) is easier because each book is shorter and there are illustrations to help guide the reader. With MG, particularly Upper-MG, your words are on their own. Children at this age are often voracious readers with little time to spare on books that don’t immediately grab their attention. The market is becoming more and more saturated with titles from well-known celebrities and that’s a tough competition to beat.

It definitely has its rewards, though. I love language and etymology (the origin of words) and middle-grade is the perfect place for me to explore this. Children at any age are like sponges for words (just look at how quickly new slang catches on) and I enjoy slipping in words that they may never have heard before. One of my favourites at the moment is reverie, it’s just such a beautiful sounding word.

I also harbor a fondness for maps and word-building. I grew up with The Lord of the Rings and have been a long-time fan of Sir Terry Pratchett and the Discworld. Writing within an MG universe allows me to build my own. Ithilmir, the world on which Skye Thistle finds herself in The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree, now sits taped to my study wall as a fully formed map. I love that!

Perhaps most fulfilling of all is the feedback you receive from readers at this age. They are able to better understand deeper inferences in the story and relay back to you their thoughts and opinions on it as a whole.



matt bAbout the Author
Matt Beighton was born somewhere in the midlands in England during the heady days of the 1980s and continues to spend most of his days in the same shire. He is happily married with two young daughters who keep him very busy and suffer through the endless early drafts of his stories.

When he’s not writing, he teaches primary school (Kindergarten to some of you), messes around on canals in his inflatable kayak and supports his beloved Leicester City.

To find out more and to join his mailing list, visit

He is currently recruiting avid readers of children’s books for his Street Team. Find out more and request to join at

Author Social Media:
Amazon author page:

Blog Tour Schedule Here.


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Author Interview With Jack Henseleit

Author Interview, October Spooky Features

Meet Jack Henseleit.

JACK HENSELEIT was born on a winter evening in 1991, just after the stroke of midnight. When the weather is dark and stormy, he writes fairy tales – real fairy tales, where witches and goblins play tricks on unwary girls and boys. Not all of the tales have happy endings.

Jack’s debut horror series for middle-grade readers, titled The Witching Hours, was first launched in Australia in 2017, with a US edition of book one (The Vampire Knife) releasing in September 2018, and with a US edition of book two (The Troll Heart) set to follow in 2019. When Jack isn’t writing scary stories, he can be found exploring forests, playing board games, or wrestling with his cat, Teddy, all in (and around) Ballarat, Australia.

Social media links
Instagram: @jack.henseleit
Twitter: @jackhenseleit

The Interview.

Hi Jack! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello Rae, and hello blog readers! My name is Jack, and I write scary stories for children. Prior to writing my first book, I studied creative writing at the University of Melbourne for five years, where I shivered my way through countless cold, rainy nights. Luckily for me, the constant bad weather was very inspiring, and it was those rainstorms, coupled with my rediscovered love of the Brothers Grimm, that eventually motivated me to plot out my first novel. Melbourne may not be a perfect match for the wilds of Transylvania, but writers are always told to write what they know, and I’m certainly very familiar with being caught in the elements!

An author. A vampire. Tell us about your writing life and how your stories come to life.

My writing life changes enormously depending on where I am in the writing process. The best days are when I’m planning out a new idea, allowing my brain to entertain itself as it fleshes out the story, chasing inspiration through books, movies, Wikipedia articles, YouTube videos, and whatever else I can find to keep the story going. The more difficult days come when the story actually needs to be written down, and I have to spend hours sitting at my computer, trying to choose the words that will make a reader see the same mental pictures that I do. Those days are fun as well, but they’re not quite as exciting as the brainstorms that came before.

In the specific case of The Vampire Knife, I spent the months leading up to the writing phase reading The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales and watching a whole bunch of vampire films, while also learning as much as I could about the Romanian countryside. Then, when my notebook was bursting with ideas, I began to write 1,000 words of the story every night, and I kept on writing until I reached the ending. The most exciting days during that writing period were when a new spooky scene would spring up out of nowhere, and suddenly my characters would be running away screaming from a peril that not even I had expected. These unexpected interludes can be incredibly worthwhile – although in some of the later books, some of those surprise scenes have been at risk of derailing the plot entirely!

How would you describe horror (description and expectations) in terms of a middle grade understanding rather than adult?

This is a good question! People often look confused when I tell them I write horror stories for kids, but for the most part, I think horror stories can provide a valuable release for both age groups. For me, horror exists at the intersection between danger and curiosity, which are concepts that are universally understood: both adults and children understand the wisdom of avoiding a dangerous situation, because neither party wants to come to harm, but at the same time, both audiences can remain deeply curious about what might have happened if they’d made that riskier decision. What would have happened if they’d crept outside that night? What would have happened if they’d walked past that crocodile? And so we send our fictional heroes into those situations instead, and naturally, bad things happen – but the audience’s good decision making is validated, and their curiosity is finally sated.

Interestingly, if we look at the horror stories being told a hundred years ago, I don’t think there was much distinction between adult and middle-grade horror at all: a child in 2018 is unlikely to be terribly scared by any of the old Universal horror films, like Dracula (1931), or The Mummy (1932), or Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). But then slasher films became a thing, and all of a sudden horror fiction for adults became bloody, and visceral, and unrelenting – and that’s the shift that children’s horror cannot, and will not, ever make. Children’s horror is allowed to be scary, but the story needs to be threaded through with hope and moments of respite, so that the child reader can maintain a level of control over the experience. Bad things can happen, but the (mostly) happy ending always needs to be waiting around the corner!

How does the writing – editing – publishing process of your current novels differ from your first, The Vampire Knife?

Last month I finished writing the fourth book in The Witching Hours series, and regretfully, the experience of writing book four was a lot more difficult than writing book one. When I wrote The Vampire Knife, there were no expectations whatsoever: nobody knew I was writing a book, and so I felt a great freedom to write whatever I wanted, taking the story in whichever crazy direction would amuse me the most. Now, three years later, I’m lucky enough to have a real audience, and a team of real (and brilliant) publishers supporting my series – and I’m terrified of letting them down! I really want each new book to be even spookier and more exciting than the ones that came before it, and as a result I’m constantly second-guessing myself, shifting the scenes around to try and make them as entertaining as they can be. I’m still having a tremendous amount of fun, but it’s fair to say that the learning curve for writing sequels was more challenging than I expected. (But also, now that the story is done and dusted, I feel confident in saying that book four is the scariest story yet!)

Write a one sentence fairy tale – goblins and all!

“The goblins doused their torches as they snuck into the treasure cave, slipping through the shadows; but the dragon saw them coming by the greed glinting in their eyes, and he waited for them in the dark, gobbling them up one by one.”

“For only the bravest readers.” Why do you think it is important to have horror reads available for younger readers?

As well as providing a safe way for child readers to satisfy their morbid curiosities, I think horror stories are always terrifically entertaining – and in an age where books are having to compete with YouTube and iPads to gain a child’s attention, I think it’s great for booksellers and librarians to have an easy selling point to try and lure in a reluctant reader. “This one has a vampire in it” is a good hook at any age!

Tell us a little bit about your series, The Witching Hours. Do you have a favourite book, character, scene or all three?

The Witching Hours series follows heroic siblings Anna and Max as they travel around the world, encountering a whole menagerie of terrifying magical creatures in each new country they visit. The books are written according to modern sensibilities – the cliffhangers come thick and fast – but at the same time, the core stories are heavily inspired by traditional fairy tales, and so aim to encapsulate a very old-school approach to magic and adventure. It’s also a writing philosophy of mine that children shouldn’t expect to battle with monsters and come away unscathed, and so readers should be warned that Anna and Max may not escape their first adventure entirely intact…

In terms of having a favourite book, character, or scene, I always tend to be most in love with whichever piece of writing I’ve been working on the most recently! When I’ve just finished writing a scene with Anna, I’m always enamoured with her courage, and her kindness, and her boundless curiosity; but then I’ll write a scene with Max, and be impressed with his good sense, and his humour, and the lighter touch that he brings to proceedings. Having said that, I’ll always be beholden to the fifth chapter of The Vampire Knife (titled, appropriately enough, “The Witching Hour”) which is the first scene I ever wrote for the story, back before I even knew I was going to write a novel. It’s a lovely little horror story in its own right, and provided me with a solid foundation on which to construct my first book – and, indeed, my first series.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I’ve got nothing else to share, except to thank your readers for giving this article a click! If anything I’ve said here has sparked your curiosity, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of The Vampire Knife, to see what terrors lie within. Happy Halloween, and happy witching!


Thank you Jack!

Happy Halloween everyone!