Marshall and His Green High-tops is a splendid debut from new children's author Camille Blue Amy who at age 71 is beginning a surprising new career! TMarshall and His Green High-tops is a splendid debut from new children's author Camille Blue Amy who at age 71 is beginning a surprising new career! The book is adorable, the illustrations by Lorena Pugh are exquisite and it's a perfect early reader for children ages 2-6. It's a story with a moral to it and children everywhere will fall in love with sweet little Marshall mouse. ...more
I have spent my Christmas vacation relaxing and reading a delightful, splendidly written travel memoir by Was4 STARS
December 30, 2009 by Christine Bode
I have spent my Christmas vacation relaxing and reading a delightful, splendidly written travel memoir by Washington, DC playwright and author Denis Lipman entitled A Yank Back To England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns.
I made Denis’ acquaintance last year through his interesting and colourful blog, England Rents, Raves & Rants and after reading his book about his family’s annual trips to England over a six year (actually nine) period, I feel as if I know not only him but them as well! His writing is fluid, to the point, and extremely witty, and his English sense of humour and Dagenham, Essex upbringing sparkle in A Yank Back To England which is charming and authentically English.
Denis Lipman, at first glance, may seem an unassuming sort of English gentleman who has become fairly Americanized, but his life has been anything but mundane. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to become an apprentice printer and within a week realized that magic was his calling so he left to pursue a career as a magician and magic dealer. It was this endeavor that initially led him to the United States where he would later meet his wife, Frances Erlebacher, and together, they and their only child, Kate, would spend their annual vacation visiting Denis’ elderly parents, the somewhat eccentric Lew and Jessie, in the Old Country.
When magic lost its luster, Denis experimented with writing scripts, songs, and even album production and after years of trying on different occupations for the right fit, he ended up relocating to Washington, DC where he became a senior writer for a major advertising agency and a playwright for the Washington Theatre Festival. In the early 1990s, Denis and Frances started their own agency, The Creative Shop.
It was Frances who decided that they should take advantage of their yearly sojourns to England when they would visit Denis’ parents and relatives and really get to know the country, both as tourists, and as their second home. Denis wasn’t initially all that keen on traipsing around to see the sites, but in spite of his reluctance, discovered that he really did enjoy his homeland and even fell in love with it. I certainly fell in love with the England (Hammill, close to Sandwich) he described in Year Six: A Regency Cottage on a Bridle Path as their accommodation at Madrigal Cottage is how I have always envisioned the beauty and charm of the English countryside.
This affectionate memoir actually reveals more about the characters portrayed in it than the sites that they visit. Restaurant and hotel names are not mentioned, although cities, towns and villages are, as well as some of the prominent sites one would associate with those places, which according to Denis are all within a half-day trip from London. Meals are described in such a way that you sometimes salivate and occasionally crinkle up your nose in disgust while tea and Jack Daniels flow copiously. The weather is always a force to be reckoned with and the countryside as charismatic and as challenging as one could imagine. This is a depiction of the reality of travel and it’s not always brilliant but it is remarkable.
A Yank Back To England is just as much about Denis getting to know his aging parents as adults, friends and grandparents as discovering what makes England the historical, magnificent country that it is. The events here are not sugar-coated in any way and Denis describes his parents, in particular, in a very honest and not necessarily flattering manner but you fall in love with them anyway. We also meet Denis’ aunts Flo, Vi and Mary and cousins Pam and Kevin and his wife Maxine, and briefly Denis’ brother Tony and his wife Tricia. We get a glimpse of Kate’s early years and recognize that Frances is ever thoughtful, practical, diplomatic, and easy to get along with and Denis owes the success of this book to her.
A travel memoir cannot be easy to write as it would be hard to remember entire conversations the way that Denis has written them here, but because he has managed to do so, the book reads like a novel and when it ends you find yourself sighing, smiling, reflecting and utterly yearning for your next vacation abroad. And don’t forget to dress in layers and place a bet on the horses while you’re at it!...more
Like millions of other Outlander fans, I’ve been watching the new Starz television series of the same name and LOVE it! I think the producers have donLike millions of other Outlander fans, I’ve been watching the new Starz television series of the same name and LOVE it! I think the producers have done an excellent job of staying true to the book and I’m sure that’s because author Diana Gabaldon is a consultant for the series. The casting of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as Claire & Jamie Fraser and Tobias Menzies as Frank/Black Jack Randall is perfect, and even though the casting of Dougal MacKenzie seems wrong because Graham McTavish doesn’t look like Dougal and seems too old for the part, he is doing a great job with it. I can’t wait to see what comes next…although having to wait for April 2015 to see the second part of Season 1 is PAINFUL!!
Needless to say the Outlander series of books are those which fans read over and over again. While I’m not a super-duper obsessed fan, I have always named Diana Gabaldon as my favourite author since I read the first four novels in the late 90’s. Then, like everyone else, I waited and waited and waited for the next books to be written and in the meantime, I had theChristine Bode meets Diana Gabaldon for the second time great pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon twice at book signings…once after the release of A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005) and once after the release of Lord John and The Brotherhood of The Blade (2007).
I own all of her novels but I haven’t read the last two books in the Outlander series yet and that’s because I decided that I would have to make the time to re-read the series in order, back to back, so that everything would be fresh in my mind. I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes when it came out and haven’t read another of her books since. So, now is the time! The television series has inspired me and the next year will be the year of Diana Gabaldon for me. And what a sensational year of reading it will be!!
I finished reading Outlander for the second time at 3:00 am this morning. It took me two weeks and two days, and that’s with reading at least a couple of chapters a day. These mammoth tomes are hard for an engaged reader to put down so that they can sleep, work or just get on with their day. I know they’re very long novels, but I swear that every chapter is captivating.
Although there have been an army of authors who have tried to replicate the success of these novels for themselves, no one else has come close to the popularity of Diana Gabaldon’s novels. This very intelligent woman, who happens to hold three science degrees including a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, has sold over 25 million copies (the books have been published in 26 countries and in 23 languages) and continues to live happily with her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona. Diana Gabaldon is an extremely smart, charming, witty and beautiful woman and that’s why her books have stolen the hearts of so many people.
I’m going to reiterate what Outlander is about using Diana’s own words:
“In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family. But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones—such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain. She walks through a cleft stone in the circle…and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform. This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank—and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall—though for other reasons.
In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall—and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry. The story rolls on from there…”
And what an amazing, fantastic, romantic, adventurous, historical story it is!!
There’s not much more that I can add about Outlander except to say that if you haven’t read this series yet, do it! Now!! Before you die, you have to read at least the 8 novels that are currently in print (if you skip the Lord John Grey novels, you’ll be forgiven, but you should read them too) because I guarantee you, that if you love romantic, historical, adventurous, fantastical stories, no finer have ever been written. And no ladies, Jamie Fraser does not actually exist. A man like that is purely a fictional creation! Amen....more
Exit The Actress by Priya Parmar is historical romantic fiction set in England between the years 1662 and 1670 during the Restoration reign of King ChExit The Actress by Priya Parmar is historical romantic fiction set in England between the years 1662 and 1670 during the Restoration reign of King Charles II. A young orange girl named Ellen Gwyn becomes a celebrated actress known as Nell, who finds herself involved in a succession of relationships with three men, all named Charles. Her story, which is based in fact, is revealed through a series of journal entries, letters, broadsheets and other historical documents.
According to Wikipedia: “Eleanor “Nell” Gwyn (or Gwynn or Gwynne) (2 February 1650 – 14 November 1687) was a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England.
Called “pretty, witty Nell” by Samuel Pepys, she has been called a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella.
Elizabeth Howe, in The First English Actresses, says she was “the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent.”
However, it also states that “Gwyn was illiterate her entire life (signing her initials “E.G.” would be the extent of her ability to read or write), adding an extra complication to the memorisation of her lines.”
While those last two “facts” didn’t quite come across, Exit The Actress is an intriguing imaginary account of Ellen’s life right up until the end of the book when a short and disappointing Epilogue rather awkwardly ties up the story.
Other than that, there are two other things that I didn’t care for, the first being how small the regular font is and how hard the secondary scriptwriting font is to read throughout. The second thing I noticed is that for a poor, barely educated oyster girl of 12 years old (at the beginning of the book), Ellen writes suspiciously beyond her years and this just doesn’t ring true for me. I concede that women had to grow up fast in the 17th century and were often married off very young, but still…
The story begins in May 1662 in London and King Charles II has just taken Portuguese Infanta, Princess Catherine of Braganza, as his queen. Exit The Actress is well researched and Parmar paints a gorgeous tableau. However, in the midst of Ellen’s journal entries we are interrupted by correspondence from different characters within the Royal family, the Royal court, and a mysterious, flamboyant gossip columnist named Ambrose Pink (who immediately reminded me of Perez Hilton) – again printed in a tiny scriptwriting font – and I found this intrusion at first annoying because it broke my connection to Ellen, but eventually got used to it. Parmar includes a cast list of all the characters in the front of the book so you can go back and refer to it. The main characters are remarkable and fully realized and I particularly enjoyed Edward “Teddy” Kynaston, Ellen’s cross-dressing and not so closeted homosexual actor friend as well as King Charles himself.
Ellen’s mother is a drunken tavern maid and Madam who pushes her oldest daughter, 14 year old, Rose, into prostitution to help bring in money for the family. Ellen writes about her life and how the actions of the Royal family influence everyone around her, and when on her 13th birthday she is asked to become an orange seller, she accepts the position gladly as she will smell of oysters no longer. Not even a year later, the orange girl, falls in with the King’s acting troupe and soon, the lithe, red-haired beauty with tiny feet becomes the darling of theatre society.
It took me a few chapters to get used to the structure of Exit The Actress and the letters from the Royals, but once I did, I enjoyed it more. The book’s sections are broken down into the different periods of Ellen’s life, starting with London Ellen, then Orange Girl Ellen, Theatrical Ellen, Actress Ellen, Independent Ellen, etc., all the way to section 10 – Exit The Actress. There is also an Author’s Note, Acknowledgements, a Reading Group Guide, A Conversation with Priya Parmar, and tips on How To Enhance Your Book Club. It seems that books are now including Special Features, just like DVDs.
Significant historical events included London’s Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Charles II’s war against the Dutch. However, I was most fascinated by Lord John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester – the poet that Johnny Depp so brilliantly portrayed in The Libertine – whose considerable role as Ellen’s and King Charles’ friend and confident was revealed. Whenever he is mentioned, I found myself even more interested in the scene, as he is a colourful and complex character, known as a writer and Wit who constantly battled his demons and eventually allowed alcohol and promiscuity to lead him to an early grave. He died at age 33 from syphilis. Rochester’s story is perhaps even more interesting than Ellen’s as her plot line contained very little conflict aside from having to share King Charles with his long line of mistresses.
Overall, Priya Parmar has written a fine although somewhat uneven debut novel but I will look forward to her future work....more