Monday, 30 April 2012

Memories of Plimouth Plantation, Massachusetts

I enjoyed reading The History Girls' blog yesterday morning. Sally Nicholls was visiting and talking about her research for All Fall Down,  her new novel about a peasant surviving The Black Death. 
She described how she visited Cosmeton Medieval Village in Wales to help her get the feeling of how people lived in those times.
This got me thinking about a trip I made to Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts, some time ago.
The 'English Village', although firmly in America, is a reproduction of the 1627 settlement, with the houses and fort that the Pilgrims built.

Interestingly, there are Native Americans as well as English settlers represented there, and you are welcome to watch and talk to them as they go about their daily tasks.
It's rather like going back in time, which I think a lot of history lovers would like to do!

This Native American is explaining how he is making a canoe by burning a hollow in a sturdy tree trunk, and the Pilgrim woman above is cooking a rabbit stew over an open fire.
The smell of the woodsmoke is my most enduring memory.

Nearby is a reproduction of The Mayflower which was an incredibly small ship to have sailed the Atlantic, and Plymouth Rock where the Pilgrims are said to have landed.
I've always been interested in the founding of America, and the first book I read about this was The Hearth and Eagle by Anya Seton, about settlers in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.
Have you read that book?
Have you visited Plymouth, Massachusetts?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Summer of the Eagles is a Novel to be Enjoyed by Young Teenagers or the Young at Heart!

I first 'met' Ros Gemmell through the Romantic Novelists' Association,  when she helped me to set up the links from the cover of my book (that you can see to your right) to Amazon and Smashwords.
She is a busy Scottish writer who writes in may genres, and Summer of the Eagles is a mystical adventure for young teenagers, set on a Scottish island.
Thirteen year old Stevie, orphaned and injured in an accident, is taken to her aunt's on Cumbruach to heal both her body and mind, but here she discovers poachers out to steal eagles' eggs from the nest high on the island, and Karig, a mysterious boy, who watches over her.
It is told in a gentle style that brings out the beauty of the island, and describes how Stevie grows up physically and mentally during her stay there. Definitely a satisfying book to take on holiday. Especially if you are off to the Scottish Islands!
If you've been following my blog, you'll know that this is the third book I've read recently aimed at teenagers. I've enjoyed them all and it's been interesting looking at life from a different point of view.
Classic children's books have stood the test of time because they have been good reads for adults as well, and I hope that these books will be enjoyed by a wide audience for years to come.

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin

Lastly, I have read Summer of the Eagles and New Beginnings on my Kindle -  my first ever books! I have to admit that it hasn't been too bad. I still love real books though and I might just buy these two again in paperback because I loved them so!
Have you ever bought a book in paperback after reading it on your Kindle?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin is a touching novel which highlights the problems of being bullied at school.

After reading The White Darkness  by Geraldine McCaughrean last week, about a fourteen year old girl  being kidnapped and taken to Antartica, I have read New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin this week, about an eleven year old who is bullied at school.
I have got to know Rebecca through placing our books in the Wallingford Bookshop, and I probably wouldn't have come across hers if it hadn't been for that, but I was intrigued because it of the subject matter.
I don't think I've read many schoolgirl novels since Malory Towers, and I can't remember much bullying going on there as everyone was having such a "jolly good time".
However, I began to read this one on my Kindle, and soon became engrossed with the story about Sam Hendry, a girl starting at a new school on her own, as her primary school friends have all gone to another. This is bad enough, but then she is  picked on by Molly and her cronies who destroy her confidence.
The story is told in a style which is very accessible for girls in their early teens with lots of reference to High School Musical and JLS, and has a thread about Sam's drama class so they could identify with that too. I think that they would enjoy finding out how Sam resolves being bullied, and this would help any one who suffers in this way.
I think it would be ideal for mothers and daughters to read it (not necessarily together) then discuss any problems that the girls might have at school afterwards.
After reading two books for young people,  I have just downloaded Summer of the Eagles by Ros Gemmell, about thirteen year old Stevie on a Scottish island.
They say that everything comes in threes!
Have you read any of them?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

You must read The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

I hadn't heard of Geraldine McCaughrean, apart from the fact that she had been chosen by Great Ormond Street Hospital to write the sequel to Peter Pan - Peter Pan In Scarlet, which I'm planning to read one day.
However, Vikki Gemmell left a comment on my blog about Captain Oates, saying that she'd been given The White Darkness, about a girl who had Captain Oates in her head giving her advice, but Vikki had never finished it. That intrigued me, and being a fan of Oates myself, ever since I heard at the age of seven that he walked outside his tent in Antarctica so his fellow explorers wouldn't be hampered by his injuries, never to be seen again, I had to read it.
This book, published in 2005, was a worthy winner of the Whitbread Children's Book Award, but it is a book that would appeal to adults as well as children.
It's about Sym who's kidnapped by Uncle Victor and taken on a South Pole expedition, not to retrace Scott and Oates's journey, but to find a hole which he believes leads to worlds which exist within the world's crust. Yes, he is bonkers, but it is only as the story unfolds that Sym realises this and things fall into place. Whilst all the time, Captain Oates talks to her, helping as much as he can, but only with reference to his life which ended in 1912.
Geraldine's storytelling is superb. Her knowledge of everything from Antarctic exploration to the Bronte sisters is amazing. I wish that I had half her knowledge!
The White Darkness refers to the fact that with all the snow and mist at the South Pole, you might as well be in the dark, because you can't see anything around you. This reminded me of the Antony Gormley exhibition at The Hayward Gallery which  I visited in 2007 where he had installed a large glass cube that you could enter, filled with tiny water droplets, finer than a cloud, called Blind Light. People entered and disappeared within two paces: dark shadows progressively sinking into the cloud. I actually used this idea in writing Gipsy Moth when Ben's plane crashes in the "white inpenetrable fog".

The White Darkness is available on Amazon, have you read it yet?

Monday, 9 April 2012

I'm Dreaming of Easter at Disney World - Last Day Today at Disney's Hollywood Studios

It's our last day of our virtual trip to Disney World and we're off to the movies at Disney's Hollywood Studios! I hope that you're all glammed up because, you never know, you might be discovered by a famous producer as you stroll along Hollywood Boulevard.
I thought you'd like to visit the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Let's go inside. It's a bit gloomy because it was hit by lightning on October 31st 1939. Funny how all the bell hops still seem to be wearing 1930s uniforms . . . I wouldn't worry, but they do say that on that night, a whole elevator full of guests was transported to The Twilght Zone . . .
It's very dusty in here, as if it hasn't been touched since the lightning struck. Now we're being asked to board an elevator to discover the secret of this spooky hotel. Come on, you're not scared, are you, even if it does feel like being in The Twilight Zone programme itself?
Agh! We're falling!! The doors are opening! We can see the park! Now, we're going up again.  No, I'm not scared, not at all. Did you jump out of your seat? I did. Would you like to hold my hand?
I'm glad that's over, we must have gone up and down three or four times, I lost count, did you? At least we are still in one piece.

As it's our last night in Disney World, I thought we could have a treat and go and see Fantasmic! We have to get there early to get a seat, but we can have some frozen lemonade whilst we're waiting, and jump up and down as the Mexican Waves come past.
It's a show about Mickey Mouse overcoming the scary images in his imagination, using evil Disney characters like Ursula, and Snow White's wicked step-mother projected on fountains; fireworks; fire on the water; live action and boats. Let's sit back and watch it. It's the ultimate feel-good show when Mickey and all that's good triumph in the end.

I hope that you've enjoyed our trip to Disney World as much as I have. As Mickey says at the end of the show, 'Some imagination, huh?'

Sunday, 8 April 2012

I'm Dreaming of Easter at Disney World - It's Animal Kingdom Today!

Happy Easter! I hope you got back safely after the Illuminations last night!
Today we're off to the Animal Kingdom. It's cooler and shadier than the other parks, so it's not so tiring - except for Expedition Everest! Let's take a ride!
We catch a train here for a short cut through the Himalayas to Mount Everest. Quite safe. Don't worry. Hold on whilst the train climbs up through the mountains. Up here at the peak, we can see out all over the Animal Kingdom. Wow, it's fabulous!
But what's this? What's happened? The track is missing: it's been ripped up by the Yeti who lives in the mountains! Agh!! Now we're going backwards, (it's the only way to go) spiralling down through a dark tunnel. Are we looping-the-loop? Help! The Yeti's following us!
The train speeds away, everyone screaming. Then, we scream even more as the train shoots down a 80 foot drop. Agh!!! Then through the mountain again, back to the station, as we hear the Yeti's roars.
At least we're back safely.
I told you there was no need to worry!

Let's try something quieter now - the Kilimanjaro Safari. The Animal Kingdom was set up to conserve animals (well, perhaps not the Yeti) and here we'll go on a real safari in camouflaged trucks, amongst  real live lions, elephants and hippos. Look at these  beautiful pink flamingoes. There that's better, isn't it?

Tomorrow, it's Disney's Hollywood Studios, so put on your Oscar-winning sunglasses and big smile.  We're off to the movies!

Which is your favourite Disney theme park?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

I'm Dreaming of Easter at Disney World! Today it's Epcot!

I'm dreaming that I'm spending Easter at Disney World and you're welcome to join me.
Do you feel tired after yesterday? We managed to go on 12 rides before lunch! Then we went back later for the fireworks!
Ok, today we're visiting Epcot, let's go on the monorail. From here we can see the huge silver globe of Spaceship Earth, that's a great ride about communications. Surprised? Epcot is really two parks: this one is Future World and the rides here are about science and knowledge, but told in the Disney way! The other is World Showcase where you can walk from Mexico to Canada in an hour or two!
We can go on Test Track first or Soarin': they'll both have long queues, so we'd better hurry! Everyone seems to be heading for Soarin', so let's try Test Track. It's along here past the fountains and rest rooms. There's a queue out of the door, so let's get a FASTPASS ticket first so we can come back later and go on it again. Why? Because it's a mock up of a General Motors 'testing facility' which ends in a ride outside the building in your test car at 65 mph on a 50 degree curve. It's fantastic! However, it is closing on 16th April 2012, for refurbishment, so we better make the most of it today.
My hair's such a mess after that ride, so let's go on Soarin' now. I know that there'll be a long queue. . .
Wow, 50 minutes, but it will be worth it, you see.
Ok, we sit in these seats which hang from a frame and swing forwards into a curved screen as the film starts. Don't worry, there's a harness to keep you from falling out over California. Yes, California! This ride originated at Disneyland, and showcases the beautiful state from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to LA and Disneyland itself, as you fly over it in a 'hang glider'. The ride is over in just under five minutes, and I bet you'll want to go on it again . . .

 It's after 11am and World Showcase is open now. Let's visit Canada - it's my favourite and I hope that you'll love it too. Here we are inside the 'O Canada' attraction. We stand in the middle and there are nine screens for the Circle-Vision 360 degree movie which happens all around us. Watch out! Here come the Mounties in their red jackets cantering past us on the screen. You'll also see all the beauty of the country from East to West. It's narrated by Martin Short, I didn't know he was Canadian, did you?
That was fantastic! Now look around, you can see lots of famous sites from the Eiffel Tower to St Mark's Square in Venice.
I'll let you go your own way and we'll meet up at the Rose and Crown for fish and chips at the United Kingdom pavilion later, and watch the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

It's getting dark now and they've lighted beacons around the lagoon. When all is ready, they go out -whoosh - and it is dark. Everyone holds their breath until the music starts and Earth spins out over the lake illuminated with images of life on the planet. Then the fireworks begin exploding into a wall of white fire. It's the greatest display that I've ever seen. Unbelievable!
All too soon it's over, and we join about 35,000 people heading back to their hotels for a good sleep.
We're off to the Animal Kingdom tomorrow. Don't forget!
Which is your favourite ride at Epcot?

Friday, 6 April 2012

I'm Dreaming of Easter at Disney World! Today - The Magic Kingdom!

Have you got rain forecast this weekend?  I'm dreaming of Easter at Disney World.
Come with me! I'm catching the ferry over the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom. There's a cool breeze, but the sky's clear and it's going to be a magical day!
We're through the main gate and hurrying up Main Street USA, with the aroma of Mickey Mouse waffles wafting out of the cafes, and holiday songs singing in our ears.
Sharp left at Cinderella's Castle, glistening in the sunshine, to Frontierland! If we're quick, we can be the first on Splash Mountain! I love running through the queuing area without the queue!
That was great, did you get wet? It's a five storey plunge into the water!
Ok, right next door is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is my favourite and we won't get wet.
How about The Haunted Mansion next? Or Pirates of the Caribbean? You want to go on the Pirates? You'll see the animatronic Johnny Depp, he's just like the real thing!
Ok, it's only 10am, time for a drink!
Join me tomorrow for a trip to Epcot!
Do you love Disney as much as me?