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What is it about Princesses?

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Today I'm delighted to welcome Rose Marie Machario, author of the Amulet of Elements, to my blog, with an answer to a question that must surely be dear to my English heart...

What is it About Princesses? By Rose Marie Machario
Since the dawn of the royals, we as a civilization have been fascinated by them. I think mostly it is because it was ingrained into our minds that royalty was perceived as being a higher status than the rest of the world at large. Over the course of time the higher monarchy was reserved for only a few remaining countries who recognize royalty as being of the highest regard in society. Therefore in today’s present mindset we still look upon royals as mere fascinations.
Throughout history there have been tales on high, and legends of old about royal families of all kinds. Kingdoms held mysterious stories found in old castles, and if those stone walls could talk, I’m certain they would reveal ancient tales like we’ve never heard before. The most popular of storie…

Two Lives?

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Today I'm delighted to feature Abbigail Rosewood's If I had two Lives on my blog. I read it recently and loved it:
MY REVIEW OF IF I HAD TWO LIVES: The protagonist narrator of Abbigail Rosewood’s If I had two Lives hides behind other people’s emotions like a child hiding behind her mother’s skirt. But this child, growing up in a Vietnamese military camp, gets little support from her mother and latches onto another lonely girl for guidance and companionship instead.
The first part of the novel gives an evocative portrayal of postwar Vietnamese life and trials through the eyes of a child. In a world of men, two girls are vulnerable. And in a world of separation, attachment is both danger and treasure.
The protagonist loses focus, mirrored by shifts in the story, as the second part of the novel begins in a not-overly welcoming America. But she finds another lonely girl – lonely adult now – and begins to fill her life again with stories. Except that adult stories have a habit of be…

What if the Mad Dog isn't mad?

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Today I'm delighted to spotlight the novel Mad Dog by Kelly Watt. It's just been republished and I really enjoyed reading it.


MY REVIEW:
Kelly Watt’s Mad Dog views the idyllic apple orchards of Ontario through the eyes of a lonely fourteen-year-old protagonist who veers between obedient and rebellious as the long hot summer draws on. Her mother disappeared long ago and Sheryl-Ann lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin on a family farm, surrounded by family and isolated from the world. They go to church together on Sundays. They're considered standoffish and odd, but they're part of the community. And in term time Sheryl goes to school and knows other girls seem different. But in summer…

This summer her larger-than-life uncle “adopts” a teen musician, a runaway dreaming of greatness. The story of Sheryl’s growing attachment to Peter plays over a background of music, blossom and bees. Everyone works together in the orchards. The dog barks. Everyone relaxes together in the ev…

When were you last carried away by a book?

Sometimes books and stories carry you away, so you're almost not reading about events and characters, just experiencing them alongside the people, part of the world and the story. The characters become completely real and, even if they're people you know you could never meet, you become completely invested in their trials. I guess these books aren't the fastest reads, but then, life usually isn't fast. But they're the deepest reads, the ones that stick in the mind when the last page is turned, and the ones, perhaps, that make you feel like you've learned something from an experience you've never had.

If that's the sort of book you want to read next, then find some coffee and check out these book reviews. I really loved these books.

First is the one I've just finished and will be hosting soon on my blog. Mad Dog by Kelly Watt lulls the reader with evocative prose and the wonderful scents and scenery of an orchard summer. But apples might be a very ap…

Curious, curiouser and curiousest?

Yesterday's reviews were of short and shorter stories, so perhaps it makes sense if today's are of curious and curiouser tales. Science fiction, historical fiction, or magical realism (or both/all three); whatever, these are three books that I've really enjoyed.

First, because cats are always curious, is Mollie Hunt's Cat Summer, a novel that combines ecological and social concerns... and cats. What makes us human, what makes cats feline, and what makes the planet survive all come together here - enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Moving from future disaster to present humanity, Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie is a book I've long hoped to read, and I was thrilled to finally find a copy. A book that asks as many questions as it answers, and draws the reader along like music, it's a stark and beautiful read, dark, but always elegant - drink some elegant four-star coffee and keep the darker five-star brew nearby.

And in the past, there's The…

Short, shorter and shortest

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Our writers' group is busy preparing our next anthology, to be released for Christmas. We've done one a year for the last few years, and Fine Lines was our last effort, in celebration of the lines on my mother's 90-year-old face.
Meanwhile members have submitted stories and poems to various anthologies, and one of my friends was recently published in the Itty Bitty Writing Space. So I had to get a copy and read it. And here are reviews of Itty Bitty plus various other short story collections and anthologies that I've read recently. Find some coffee. See what you'd like:

First, of course, is the Itty Bitty Writing Space edited by Jason Brick and Dani J Caile, a truly eclectic collection of truly short (shortest!) pieces, each less than 1,000 words. It's a perfect book for picking up and putting down, but also an enthralling anthology to read straight through from beginning to end. Stories hint at questions complex, weird or enthralling, delve into mystery and le…

What's it about?

A friend phoned the other night. She's in the same writing group as me and she's writing her memoir. She phoned to tell me she'd just listened to a speaker at a different group, the author of a published memoir. Perhaps this author will speak to our group sometime. But in the meantime, my friend had learned that the most important question to ask, over and again, chapter after chapter, is "What's it about?"

"Of course, it's memoir; it's about life, and my life in particular." It's a good answer, but is it good enough? Would anyone else be interested in my life, for all that (in her case) it's been long and the world where it started is changed beyond recognition?

Then she asked what I'm writing, and one thing I'm working on is a non-fiction book, with the "working title" of "Faith, Hope, Love and Science." I guess I should ask myself the same question (she asked it of course) - what's it about? I mumbl…

Is it Magic? Real? Horror? Science Fiction? Psychological...?

A recent speaker at our writers' group writes horror, or "horror light" as he described it. Straight after the meeting I read and enjoyed his novel WiZrD, which reminded me in many ways of my favorite Stephen King novels - the less heavy and wandering ones. I also enjoyed discussions with friends about the difference between magical realism, fantasy and horror. Someone suggested it's all a question of balance; if the real and the magical are equally balanced, it's probably magical realism. But what if the real and the horror are equally balanced, or the mystery and the science fiction, or the imaginary and the real? Which got me thinking, maybe we do have to fit our books into genres, but maybe the best stories are those that balance their labels so invisibly that we don't question which genre we're in as we read. I'm not sure where that would leave my books. I'm definitely working on some magical-realism teen novels, but I've been working on …

Bright Colors for Gray Bedtimes Perhaps?

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One day it was sunny, the dahlias were blooming, buds on everything else, and tomatoes slowly ripening. It was like spring and summer combined. And then came fall. Now the sky's gray, the blooms are waterlogged, and squirrels have squirreled all the tomatoes away (unless it was that rabbit, or the raccoon - wildlife is blooming!). I swept the murk and dead leaves from the path, trimmed the grayed decay from plants, and looked up, waiting for rain. Then I came back inside to warm yellow lamplight and a view of the last few flowers through the window. Warm and dry (and free from marauding spiders) is definitely nice.

One thing I don't seem to have done in ages (in almost a month) is post book reviews, so I flipped through my "not yet posted" list and found these for brightly colored childrens books, and that made me think, yeah, bright colors for gray bedtimes. (Actually, one just has a brightly colored cover, but the story's bright and colorful, which works just a…

How to see the past through fresh eyes

Visiting places remembered from childhood is a great way to see how quickly the world changes. Our recent trip to England brought back lots of memories, but nothing is ever quite the same. Weren't beaches wider back then? And sidewalks? And buildings... weren't they taller? Didn't people smile more, and possibly argue less?

Watching old videos makes the differences even clearer - the toys the kids played with, the way they played and dressed and spoke...

And then there are books. I've recently enjoyed reading several books set in the past (or even set in England in the past!) so here are some reviews. Find some coffee and see what you'd choose to read too.

Dreams that never were by Greg Messel is set in the US in the sixties, telling a first-person story set around the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I remember rushing to a TV set in dismay when I heard the news - and I was a kid in England - and I remember the quotes from the late senator that preface the chapters…

Visiting family in the past, and reading kids' books

I visited family in England recently and brought back an English VCR. Our old "multi-region" VCR died in our flood and isn't made any more. Second hand versions are "available," but with reviews that say the machine overheats and only runs for about a year, so buying that way did not seem good. So... an English VCR, that reads English tapes (PAL as opposed to NTSC), but would they play on an American TV?

First, of course, I had to connect the player to the TV. No SCART plug of course. I could do the red-white-yellow thing, except I'd need to find an old TV to accept them. Or... wonder of wonders... an HDMI cable? A US-UK voltage transformer (bought when we first moved here) powers the UK VCR, which connects via HDMI to the US TV, and everything works - even menus, recording to DVD, the lot! Except for the line across the bottom that says it's failed to connect to BBC1, which is not surprising. Hurray!

So now, not only have I visited family, but I can wa…