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Archive for August 31st, 2018

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Middle Grade
Date Published: October 2017
Publisher: Plaisted Publishing House Ltd
 
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After Bess Silver had settled into her new home in Pineview she thought her biggest problem would be settling into a new school. She was surprised to learn that it was a one room school house which was different from what she was used to.
That all changed when Megan Skye, her best friend and cousin, dashed into their kitchen late one afternoon with exciting news. Megan’s father discovered an old cabin, hidden behind a wall, when he started doing kitchen renovations. Megan asked him to take the suitcases, ledgers and trunk they found over to Bess instead of throwing them out. Clues turn up in the suitcases and in a secret compartment in the cabin which leave Bess puzzled. When she first looked around the cabin she sees a ghostly figure that disappears in an instant but is as real as Megan. Dreams about the cabin and occupants haunt Bess. These feel so real that she can’t shake the feeling that she was actually near them.
Who is the figure that Bess saw in the cabin? What is she trying to tell her? Why is she having dreams about the old cabin? Will Bess be able to figure  out who the mysterious figure is? Or would these secrets remain secrets forever?
The Mystery of the Hidden Cabin is the sequel to Bess’s Magical Garden and can be read on it’s own.

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Bess’s Magical Garden
Published: October 2015
Publisher: FriesenPress
Bess’s mother moves them to Pineview, away from her best friend Megan, and she terribly misses her. Six months earlier, Bess’s father died in a car crash, and she’s also in the midst of recovering from the final stages of polio. She’s in a sad and lonely place.
From the moment she and her mother settle into their new home, Bess hears whispering voices and encounters a ghostly figure in the well-kept garden and in her dreams. She can’t make sense of everything and so shares her observations with Megan by writing her regular letters.
During the summer, she makes new friends, including an orange and white tomcat that she names Pumpkin, and her new neighbour Josie. With the help of Mrs. O’Toole, the woman who watches her, Bess continues to recover, both physically and emotionally. She becomes more and more curious about the garden and the unexplained clues that she finds there.
In Bess’s Magical Garden, Bess discovers her own true strengths through enduring life’s struggles. She – with Josie and Megan’s help – also finds some hidden items in the garden, including a map, that leave the girls with more questions than answers. Who was the figure that visited Bess? Will Bess and her friends be able to uncover the garden’s secrets? Or will those secrets be mysteries forever?
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About the Author

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Marjorie (M.E.) Hembroff is the author of Bess’s Magical Garden, a middle grade novel and picture book Gramma Mouse Tells a Story. Marjorie is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,  and Writer’s Guild of Alberta.
Marjorie has been an avid reader since early childhood and has always been imaginative. Growing up on a farm before television aided in her using her imagination to create a variety of pastimes. Stories formed in her mind but most of them were never written down until later in life. It wasn’t until her children were growing up that she started to take art and writing courses. At that time, her writing improved and short stories formed. It was when she retired that the idea for Bess’s Magical Garden surfaced.
After Marjorie’s divorce she worked in the plant industry. First at a greenhouse and then looking after tropical plants in downtown offices. For awhile it looked like her adult children would never leave home but they have now all flown the nest and are having their own life’s adventures. After retirement she moved to Strathmore where she lives with her pets.
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Dead Cats

40041713

Dead Cats: and Other Reflections on Parenthood by Jesse McKinnell

Joel Peterson’s rock bottom is deeper and darker than he ever imagined, but with the help of the ghost of Kurt Cobain he hatches a plan to capture the attention of his estranged family and reclaim his life.

Dead Cats and Other Reflections on Parenthood is a dark comedy that tracks the descent of Peterson, a once successful dentist and proud member of the upper middle-class as he falls into a spiral of drugs and vanity. When a car crash leaves him battered and homeless, he finds comfort in the restless lost soul of Cobain. Together, the two cut a path across southern Maine, chasing the meaning in their lives, desperately trying to be the men they expected to become.

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JESSE McKINNELL grew up in Massachusetts but has lived peacefully in Maine for many years. On July 4, 2015, he had a dream about a dentist with a passion for writing sitcoms. Somehow, DEAD CATS And Other Reflections on Parenthood was the result. It is his first novel.     

My Review

5 stars

Joel Peterson is a dentist in a downward spiral. His wife has kicked him out to the guest house out back and his drug addiction keeps piling bad decision on bad decision. A court hearing goes wrong and then an accident with his Porsche essential seals the deal. Joel finds himself homeless but not alone as the ghost of Kurt Cobain helps him to regain his former life.

There is a saying that the only place you can go from the bottom is up. In Joel Peterson’s case that is not true, he continues to keep going deeper and deeper down. Joel is a horrible person and I couldn’t stand him in the beginning of the story, especially the incident with the family cat. But as the story progressed and the more I laughed at the things Joel encountered, the more I really wanted the best for him.

This is a dark comedy as Joel finds himself in strange places with odd things happening around him. This is a dark comedy about the things in life that we value more than the things that are truly important. This is a great read and  I recommend checking it out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

I would like to thank Page Turner Publicity for the opportunity to read and share this book.

An Interview with Jesse McKinnell, 

author of DEAD CATS

1.     Kurt Cobain captured the teenage angst of an entire generation of boys in the early/mid 1990’s.  Has that generation (Generation X) overcome that angst or has it festered into their adult lives?

Cobain is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. I still remember where I was when I found out he had died (a school cafeteria) and a whole section of the room just deflated. And it wasn’t just boys. I think there are certain celebrities in our culture who people decide embody their belief system and they wear their fandom of that person as a character trait of themselves.
It can be shorthand for filling out a personality. When one of these cultural touchstones kills himself, people are set adrift for a time. I’m certainly as guilty of this as anyone. I’m a grown man who still wears band t-shirts, as some sort of subconscious advance to people I meet about who I am and what they should expect from me if they choose to engage me in conversation.
I’m not sure how much the angst that Cobain represented has festered. I wish it had festered but I fear that it has either metastasized into an angry tumor or been placated by the endless distractions that bombard us every day. I don’t know. The older I get the more confused I become by people.

2.     Your novel captures in both humorous and serious ways the crisis in masculinity that younger to middle-aged white men are experiencing.  What do you think is the cause of this crisis?

People generally hate change. Being a straight, cis-gendered, white male, for so long in America has represented a certain level of unimpeachable privilege and when that gets challenged as something less than an entitlement at birth, people lash out. America is changing demographically and I think that has caused a lot of resentment from people who are afraid of existing in this country on equal footing. The Mad Men lifestyle isn’t an option anymore.

3.     Being a white, upper middle class man in this country has always afforded certain advantages and privileges, yet some of these men today feel that their male privilege is under attack.  Is it?  If so, by whom and how should white men respond?

Hell yeah it’s under attack. If you can’t tell by the picture on my website or on the back of my book, my chromosomes arranged themselves into the ideal demographics for succeeding in America. I’m even tall. Dead Cats was partly a manifestation of me being uncomfortable with myself. How much of my life is made possible or enabled by a system that is beyond my control but biased in favor of me? How much is genuinely earned? I still don’t know, but I try to go through life employing empathy liberally. The best I’ve been able to do is make a serious effort to understand other people’s point of view, because their experiences are different than mine and they face prejudices that I will never truly understand. It’s hard and requires people to be less reactionary. I don’t know that I’m good at it yet, but it’s important to try.

4.     You tackle some serious themes in your book through dark humor.  What are the challenges and rewards to an author who uses this type of stylistic voice?

The only way I knew how to write about these issues, the way that felt the most appropriate, was with biting sarcasm. And I really like being able to place the reader right in the main character’s (Joel) head and have them exposed only to his warped perspective. The reaction to the book has been funny. People so far have generally really wanted to root for Joel, but as I place more and more obstacles in front of him, I sort of erode their hope that this is a person worth saving. Most people think the book is funny and thought provoking.

5.     Your main character is obsessed with his career, fancy car, and his status—it’s the way he defines himself and measures others.  Do you think this is a problem inherent in the larger society of this country?

Yes, I do. It’s something I’ve observed in myself and have to actively work to control. I can’t deny that I feel good when I buy something or that I get competitive about success. Finding peace in yourself is hard and there are a million ways and a million companies with an answer on how best to fill the hole that’s inside people. Finding a purpose in life away from our things and being happy with yourself is hard.

6.     Kurt Cobain literally haunts the anti-hero of this novel.  Why did you choose to make Kurt Cobain the phantasmagoric sidekick of this novel? 

Joel really needed a foil, someone to bounce all of the craziness that was going on in his head off of. Cobain, to me, was a perfect reflection of childhood ambitions wasted. We grow up with inflated ideals of what we mean to the world and what’s possible and then slowly slide into easy contentment. That feeling of loss of self is really the undercurrent pushing Joel along and Kurt was the manifestation of that youthful rebel spirit that becomes co-opted and then broken. Plus Kurt is still pretty cool to me.

7.     Part of the novel deals with the main character’s disillusionment with his wife and his role as a father, yet there is a yearning on his part to be reunited with his family.  Is too much expected of men in our society today?  Was it easier for men in the 1950’s when they were simply expected to be the breadwinner of the family and allowed to be physically and emotionally more remote from life at home? 

Ha – I hope it’s not too much to ask of men to be loving partners and involved parents. I’m a husband and a father and I couldn’t imagine not wanting to be involved in every aspect of my family’s life. As more families rely on double incomes, raising kids is becoming more democratic out of necessity. But for me, and at least most of my friends with families, being an involved and pleasant parent is fun. Joel takes his life and his family for granted and then when he bottoms out, he’s forced to confront that being a father is the only thing that really matters. Finding a way to claw back into their good graces drives the second half of the novel.

8.     Why did you title your novel DEADCATS?  Cats don’t fare well in the book.  Do you have something against cats?

Well, I’m decently allergic to cats but I had them as a kid. Only one cat doesn’t fare well in this book but he sort of wins in the end.

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